“School has the power to lift us up, so we can reach our goals and learn quickly” - Jordan

Photo caption: Syrian refugee Sana going to a Caritas run school in Jordan. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia. Date: March 2017.

Photo caption: Syrian refugee Sana going to a Caritas run school in Jordan. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia. Date: March 2017.

Sana* is a 12 year old Syrian girl living with her family in Jordan. An ambitious student, Sana has her sights set on a career as an ophthalmologist. As a quiet, young refugee she struggled to overcome the trauma of growing up in a conflict zone and faced the prospect of missing out on school. Now, Sana is an academic high-achiever who is flourishing in a stable school environment thanks to an Australian Humanitarian Partnership supported initiative implemented by Caritas Australia. 

Sana grew up in Syria’s capital, Damascus, living with her parents and six siblings. Her father was a construction worker and her mother a housewife. “Before the war in Syria, we were safe. We lived a comfortable life,” says Hanan, Sana's mother. “Everything was okay in terms of living expenses, and the availability of education for the kids.”

The Syrian conflict turned their lives upside down. “I do not recall anything before the war broke out as I was very young,” says Sana. “I only recall missile attacks. We used to think we were already dead with each bomb that dropped." According to Hanan, "we lived in a constant state of anxiety, tension and fear. The children were very scared and could not sleep through the night."

They were reluctant to flee their family home, but were forced to evacuate as the situation became too dangerous, leaving at night on foot. Fearful for their lives, they finally made it across the border into Jordan. “We left all of our belongings, including our toys and photographs, back in Syria,” says Sana. “We thought we would go back after four months, or even after a year. We never thought years would go by.”

In Jordan, Caritas Australia and partners Caritas Jordan and Catholic Relief Services provide vital academic and psychosocial support through the Caritas Education Program - a program partially funded by the Australian Humanitarian Partnership. Sana started attending one of Jordan’s Caritas schools, providing tuition to disadvantaged students. The school enables young people like Sana to catch up and integrate into the Jordanian school system, providing them with the opportunity to further their education.

“There are 8000 refugee students who study in our 25 schools,” says Abeer, Caritas' Education and Protection Coordinator. “The school brings them back to a normal life and they start to dream again.” According to Hanan, school changed Sana's psychological state, giving her a sense of tranquility. “I would not be able to read and write,” says Sana. “I would feel lost, as if I knew nothing about the world. School has the power to lift us up, so we can reach our goals and learn quickly.” Sana's teacher says many of the refugee children are thriving in the school environment. “We have a group of students who need us. They love the school. They were afraid, but they found safety, security and tranquility,” Butheina, her teacher, says “at first Sana was quiet…and did not have any participation. Afterwards, she has become active and has given her best.”

Caritas provides a broad range of education services, including preparing preschool children for school and supporting students who have missed out on schooling to return to the education system. The program includes counselling and nutritious meals and snacks at school. It also funds the bus which transports children safely to school. The drivers and bus monitors are trained on how to protect the students. Without this service, young people like Sana would not be able to attend school.

Sana's father has been unable to work due to a back problem and although life in Jordan is better, their financial situation is difficult. When it is safe, the family hopes to return to Syria. Sana would like to continue her studies wherever she is. “I would like to become an ophthalmologist, as sight is the most important thing in our lives. If it wasn't for sight, we would not be able to read, write or learn.”

Hanan is dreaming of a prosperous future for her children. “I hope Sana fulfills her dream. I would love for all my children to be well educated and become professors, doctors and whoever they aspire to be. I hope they get the future they wish for. I would like to send all my love, respect and appreciation to the people of Australia. I would also like to ask them to continue caring for the Syrian refugee population in Jordan.”

* Names have been changed. 

Date of article: April 2018.

In 2017, Caritas Australia received $2 million through the AHP for their Jordan education program. The length of this AHP response is July 2017 - July 2019.