by Mark Shriver
Every day, conflict and persecution force nearly 34,000 people to flee their homes in search of safety. That’s 24 people per minute.
To make matters worse, half of the world’s refugees are children. They face violence, loss of their homes and friends and all sense of normalcy, and they also too often lose out on education.
Behind these statistics are real children’s lives, like 12-year old Hurriyah*, a Syrian refugee living with her family in Lebanon.
A boy from the neighborhood recently started harassing Hurriyah*, following her to and from school. The community is starting to gossip because of this, and her father is concerned that Hurriyah’s reputation may be at stake. Her family doesn’t feel like they can go to the police given their refugee status.
In an attempt to protect his daughter, Hurriyah’s father is considering securing a marriage for her. However, Hurriyah vehemently opposes this. She wants to stay with her family and continue her studies.
“I used to play and enjoy my time, but I’m not happy anymore,” she said. “This is not our country, we are not comfortable here. In Syria I had more freedom . . . here I cannot even go outside or open the door.
“I want to continue my studies. I don’t want to get married, but my father is saying I might have to leave school.”
When her family lived in Syria, they regularly feared for their lives because of the ongoing conflict. Now that they are in Lebanon, the prospect of an early marriage is resulting in psychological problems for Hurriyah.
Hurriyah isn’t alone in her struggles to stay in school. In fact, refugees are five times less likely than children in their host countries to attend school. And without school, other children – like 11-year old Syrian refugee Rania* – may not reach their dreams, either.
Rania attends a Child Friendly Space managed by Save the Children, but wants to go to school.
“I love coming here to the Child Friendly Space because I have got to know the teachers and made friends,” she said. “I like it when they ask what we want to be when we grow up. I want to be a French teacher. All my French teachers at my school love me. I like school . . . because in school we get an education.
Children’s lives have been totally upended because of the conflict in Syria. Rami*, a 13-year old Syrian refugee also misses his school and friends.
Rami remembers the evening his family fled from their home.
“It was dark and harrowing. There was war and much fighting going on,” he said. “Mortar shells rained down on houses in our town, destroying buildings and killing everyone inside. A rocket landed on top of a three-story building, crushing it like you crush biscuits. Our house was burned down, so we fled to the first town beyond the border. I didn’t know where we were heading, but I knew that war forced me to leave my home.”
Rami dreams of returning to Syria someday where he wants to be a teacher.
You can help give Hurriyah, Rania, Rami and millions of other refugee children a future by urging President Obama to commit to ensuring that refugee children are safe and in school.