By: Elisa Gennaro
Komorebi Post- 14 years old, Malian immigrent body was found, after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea 2015 with a thousand migrants in as they tried to reach Italy. This boy, sew his school report card to his jacket maybe to present his future plans or simply be accepted as a human being. Many refugees persue the right of education and associate it as a key to access the “world of freedom”; Europe.
After reading this story my memories took me back, two years ago when I was working in an International Humanitarian Organization that dealt with disembarking refugees in Southern Italy. That day, I was called in the middle of the night to assist one small group of Syrians who reached Italy from Libya, most of them were families. My role was to enquire if they had special needs, emergencies or conditions of various kinds. If there was no emergencies I would proceed with my normal tasks, inform refugees about next legal proedures in their long path of immigration. One of traditional questions I would ask families, is if they travelled alone or if they have family members in Italy. I remember a Syrian couple sharing their story- it was dawn and we were in a bus waiting.
The couple declared they have a teenage son who got integrated in a project provided by the Italian Government for unaccompained minors and was attending school. Ahmad (the name changed) left by himself from Syria, to Libya to Egypt then from Alexandria to Italy.
When I heard this I felt relieved and was almost sure that they had an intention to reunify their family, I informed the couple about their right to do that as stated by the law. At that point they stopped me anxiusly to manifest complete rejection of the idea. Even though their desire was to reunite with their son, they were in constant contact with him but their priority was his education. Both parents were afraid that their arrival could intrupt the educational course he was following to that date. They prefered to let him continue his studies untill the day he was legally permitted to be hosted by the reception system. I still remember the spark in their eyes when they spoke about the right of education and how their son is not loosing time without education.
“We are aware that our legal status as refugees is at the initial stage and we wish to avoid any delay in the school course of our son”
This was one of the most touching declarations, I have heard. But for some reason I felt useless to them. I thought after many years of being deeply involved in Middle Eastern Affairs and with the ongoing “wars “ in Syria- which disfigured the very features that always distinguished its people. Toghether with Palestine, Syria has been constantly one of the most literate countries in the Arab world with up to 93% of the total of children attending school. Today, almost 2 million Syrian children do not go to school for various reasons including; safty or because the schools facilities have been bombed, damaged or kept by the militias. Half of Syrian Refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, ‘Iraq, Egypt do not benefit from any formal education, living on the edge of the society exposed to vulnerabilities or exploitation.
As the story of the Syrian couple unveils, the protection and the defence of certain rights should always be protected and defended as part of human dignity.