The Educational and Mental Health Needs of Syrian Refugee Children

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Sirin, Selcuk R.; Rogers-Sirin, Lauren
Institutional Author
Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
Resource Type
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Published Date
10-23-2015 3:54 PM
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The Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, has subsequently displaced nearly 12 million peoplemore than 4 million of them beyond Syria's borders. Children under the age of 18 represent about half of the Syrian refugee population, with approximately 40 percent under the age of 12. As the refugee crisis continues to unfold, this report takes stock of what is happening to these displaced children. Upon arrival in countries of first asylum, Syrian children have encountered various disruptions and barriers to receiving an adequate education. Approximately half were not enrolled in school in mid-2015; enrollment rates may be as low as 20 percent in Lebanon and 30 percent in Turkey. Even when they do enroll, Syrian children are more likely than their nonrefugee peers to receive poor or failing grades, or to drop out. Children may struggle to bridge gaps in their learning after substantial educational disruptions, particularly when contending with language barriers or new curricula. Syrian refugee children are also at risk for a range of mental health issues, having experienced very high levels of trauma: 79 percent had experienced a death in the family; 60 percent had seen someone get kicked, shot at, or physically hurt; and 30 percent had themselves been kicked, shot at, or physically hurt. Almost half displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)ten times the prevalence among children around the world. This report examines the experiences and resulting educational and mental health needs of Syrian children living as refugees, drawing on the results of a study conducted in Islahiye camp in southeast Turkey, which assessed children's levels of trauma and mental health distress. It also reviews intervention programs in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, and offers recommendations for best practices to address the mental health of this vulnerable child population. Syrian refugee children will likely need ongoing, targeted support to bridge the gaps in their education, attain fluency in the host-country language, and deal with trauma and other mental health symptoms, the authors conclude.
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