Jordan hosts close to 673,000 Syrian refugees and has played a pivotal role in the Syrian crisis response since its onset more than a decade ago. While enrolment rates of children were nearly universal in Jordan prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, learning outcomes have been frequently below average. Secondary school enrollments are still lagging behind among Syrian refugee children and youth while overall school enrollment is also particularly lacking among children with disabilities in particular.
In addition to challenges with academic performance, last year’s strict lockdown periods imposed a number of challenges linked to the socio-economic, mental health and protection of children in general, with particular challenges impacting the remote learning outcomes of children and youth with disabilities. Their vulnerability was only aggravated further by the lack of tailored support and adapted learning content during COVID-19 school closures. This was particularly apparent among children with intellectual, developmental, hearing and visual disabilities.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (HCD)’s 10-year (2020-2030) strategy for inclusive education is currently working towards ensuring that the percentage of school-aged children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream schools reaches 10% of the total number of school-aged children with disabilities, while also working on adapting remote learning to their needs during the pandemic.
In order to support these efforts, the No Lost Generation (NLG) recently conducted a behavioral barrier analysis among Syrian and Jordanian parents of children with disabilities. In turn, 12 behavioral determinants were analyzed among both parents who sent their children regularly to school and those who didn’t, with the aim of better understanding the enabling factors as well as the barriers impacting children with disabilities’ access to education.
Preliminary findings from camp and host community settings have shown that parents of children with learning, hearing or speech disabilities were more likely to enroll their children in school while parents of children with intellectual disabilities had more difficulties ensuring their child’s regular attendance. In addition, the latter group often lacked a support system and did not adopt a positive outlook on their child’s educational future while also being more concerned about bullying at school. They were also more likely to prefer specialized learning centers for their children – which they often could not afford - as opposed to inclusion in public schools.
On the contrary, parents who did send their children to school regularly, benefited from a support system in their community or immediate surroundings, often composed of other parents of children with disabilities who are also sending their children to school. This encouraged them to adopt a more positive outlook on their child’s future -- hoping that she or he would be able to complete their education -- while also having more faith in educational establishments and being less worried about bullying in school. This group was also more supportive of inclusion of children with disabilities in public schools and classrooms.
Focus group discussions were also held with teachers from host community and camp settings. The majority of teachers were supportive of inclusion of children with disabilities in their classrooms, insisting that it highly benefited the development of all their pupils at the social and educational levels. In addition to a fear of bullying, teachers noticed that some parents were still impacted by the stigma surrounding disability in their communities. This particularly concerned fathers of boy children with disabilities -- since male children are considered to be representative of the family’s lineage and pride in Syrian and Jordanian cultures -- and fathers had more difficulties coming to terms with their disability and specific learning needs. The issue of early marriage also came up – particularly impacting Syrian mothers in refugee camp setting – with teachers claiming they often did not have the maturity, skills nor resources to answer to their children’s educational and developmental needs and needed additional support.
In summary, building connections among both Jordanian and Syrian parents of children with disabilities – in addition to providing awareness sessions and trainings to concerned parents and teachers who act as the primary advocates for inclusion at the community level – will be an important step in ensuring a successful education pathway in camp and host community.
The Global Disability Summit 2022 (GDS22) will be a unique opportunity to discuss innovative community-led approaches that can help secure a bright and rewarding educational journey for children and youth with disabilities in both conflict and refugee settings.
More findings from this study will be presented at the NLG’s side event on Thursday, February 17th, 2022 at 10am CET (11 am Amman time). Kindly register your presence on this LINK.