Pathway of Hope: A Learning Certification Solution for Internally Displaced Children in Northern Syria

Jen Steele


The research goal underlying this chapter is to identify the most durable solution that will enable children forcibly displaced in northern Syria to have access to a certification scheme that would provide proof of their involvement in accredited learning programs. As of May 2016, these children have been living without a universal, formally recognized government for more than five years.

The identification of certification solutions for internally displaced children (IDC) is not a new topic (Kirk 2009) to the field of education in emergencies, but it is one on which significant progress is still needed.

I am particularly thankful for the guidance and input of a few people who supported me throughout the process of researching, writing, and editing this chapter, namely: Fanny Verwoerdt, Zarlasht Halaimzai, Christopher Talbot, Hector Salazar Sanchez, and Jane Steele. It is dedicated to Muhamad Manaa and Aya Al-Khaldi, for their passion, commitment, hard work, and dedication to their homeland.

J. Steele (*)

Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

© The Author(s) 2016 153

M.O. Ensor, E.M. Gozdziak (eds.), Children and Forced Migration,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40691-6_7

Delays in advancing options for this cohort are many, including the complex and political nature of the topic and the changing nature of conflict since the formalization of the field in the early 2000s.

Recently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) led a multiyear exploration of options for Syrian refugees and IDCs under a scheme called Sahabati. It is an online platform “designed to provide children and adolescents affected by conflict in the region with the opportunity to continue their education and receive certification for their learning, irrespective of their location and the schooling time they have lost” (UNICEF 2015a, 13). But serious challenges remain; the solution identified under Sahabati, for example, is not easily available to Syrian refugees or IDCs because of constraints such as the approaches’ reliance on access to electricity and self-learning.

With increasingly protracted crises, and at least 12.3 million children out of school in the Middle East (UNICEF 2015b), the global community faces a very real threat of not only failing to recognize the right of these Syrian children to an education but also of putting forward a generation of children without the skills they require to be healthy, productive members of a society. The crisis in Syria is now “the major cause” (UNHCR 2015c, 8) of the highest-ever single-year increase in refugee numbers ever seen (UNHCR 2015c). By September 2015, the world began seeing the implications of more than 4.5 years of underfunded humanitarian response to the Syria crisis literally wash up on the shores of Europe.

A durable solution to the long-term education needs of forcibly displaced Syrian children is more critical now than ever. Although recognizing that there will never be a “one-size-fits-all” option to ensure the certification of learning for children affected by crisis, this chapter encourages stakeholders to be bold and to explore what could make a difference for some of the most vulnerable, but not forgotten, learners in the world.

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