Education is such a priority in Muzoon Almellehan’s family that in 2013 they briefly considered leaving her behind in Syria to take her ninth grade exams, which were only one month away.
Realizing the risk was too great to stay for even another day, the family escaped together. Muzoon, then 14, was thrilled and relieved that there were schools at Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where the Almellehans first found safety. This dedicated student continued her studies in Azraq, the second camp her family stayed in before being resettled in Newcastle, England, where Muzoon is thriving today.
Since fleeing the violence in Syria, education for Muzoon has taken on a role beyond her own academic aspirations. She’s become a high-profile champion for education among Syrian refugees, particularly young women and girls. This drive to advocate was born when, in Za’atari, Muzoon noticed that many girls around her own age stopped attending classes. When she heard about a fellow student who had dropped out and was trying to sell her schoolbooks, Muzoon sought her out and convinced her to change her mind.
Muzoon has since travelled the world with her message.
Education is the armor that will protect you in life.
— Muzoon, resettled refugee and education advocate
Muzoon was able to continue her studies while in exile, however many Syrian refugee youth have a far bleaker story to tell.
In 2009, before the war began, only 1.1 percent of Syrian children did not attend primary school. By 2013 that had leapt to 29.1 percent. Those now living in informal settlements, like Nawfal, a refugee from Raqqa, Syria, now living in Lebanon, spend their days hanging around or playing with other children amid the rubbish, open sewers and mud. They have no toys, no playground and nothing to do.
I never missed a day of school in Syria.
I miss my books the most. I miss reading.
— Nawfal, Syrian refugee
Even where educational opportunities are available, families are desperate for income, and in many instances, children are sent to work, rather than school. Without access to education, girls and young women are especially vulnerable to early marriage, which can trap them in a life of domestic labor and sexual exploitation.
To address this unacceptable situation, the UN Refugee Agency is making sure access to education isn’t a luxury — but a necessity so that refugees can shape their own destinies, rebuild their own countries and contribute meaningfully to the communities that offer them shelter and protection.
Like all young people, refugee youth have skills, ideas, hopes and dreams. As Muzoon said:
One day, when I am a journalist, I want to write the story of
how all the Syrian children came home to lift up their country.
Here’s how you can help …
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