Syrian student on top despite misery of refugee camp

by The Region   Reuters  


What others would see as excuses were just challenges to overcome for Syrian refugee student Dalal Azzah while the 18-year-old was studying for high school exams.

At her residence in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Azzah described how both summer and winter brought their hardships.

"There were also hardships during the winter because there would be mud and it would get difficult to reach school. In the summer especially during Ramadan, many of my friends and I could not really benefit, neither at daytime nor in the evenings," she said.

But the resolute teenager worked around those difficulties and earned 97.6 percent in the General Secondary Certificate exam, the highest score on the test in the camp since its inception.

With those grades, she also became one of the top students in three educational directorates in Jordan.

The score in the General Secondary Certificate, Tawjihi in Arabic, is crucial for the academic future of students as it is the main criterion for university admission in country.

Now, Azzah wants to go on to college to study English.

Her dreams have required a sacrifice from her mother, who gave up her own chance at education to give her daughters the opportunity.

"I did not want to have them drained by cleaning and doing chores, while I go learn. No, I wanted to educate them. As for me, I hope God will never forget me," she said.

But Azzah may have even more hurdles to cross. While 400 students living in Zaatari were granted full tuition and pocket money last year, limited donations this year mean less money will be allotted to funding studies.

Humanitarian organisations had asked international donors for $5.6 billion this year to support 5.5 million Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and 4 million nationals from those host countries.

In May, the United Nations and aid agencies warned that a "critical gap" in funding for Syrian refugees and host communities this year could lead to cuts in vital services, threatening social stability in host countries and refugees' futures.

The problem is most acute in Lebanon and Jordan, which have the highest and second-highest share of refugees as a percentage of their populations in the world.