When Karen Kasmauski, a photographer for National Geographic, visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, she expected to see what we see in the news every day: chaos, fear, and trauma.
After all, millions of Syrians have been forced from their homes as a result of the Syrian civil war, and half of the refugees are children or teenagers.
But despite the awful circumstances of the Azarq Refugee Camp, Kasmauski also saw hope. At the center of that hope was a group of young students she met, all of whom were seeking an education. So she decided to take some pictures.
The students she met are all Syrians who found refuge in Jordan and now attend remedial classes at the Relief International MakaniPlus Centre through a program funded by the Malala Fund. Malala Yousafzai, the teenage education activist who survived an attempted assassination attempt by the Taliban, believes that education can make a big difference for refugee kids.
“When I was a refugee in Swat Valley, I also dreamed to continue my education,” Malala said.
The Malala Fund is dedicated to ensuring that every girl has the opportunity to attend 12 years of safe, quality schooling. And according to the nonprofit’s website, one-third of the children in the world who are not receiving education live in war zones like Syria.
The school’s head teacher, Jamalat, is also a Syrian refugee.
She volunteers her time to make sure that her students attend classes so that they’re not left behind in school. Sometimes her classes can be as large as 50 students.
Jamalat and other teachers provide remedial classes so the students can continue their education in Jordan once they leave the camp.
She also provides outdoor classes to keep the students active.
Here, Jalamat turns a jump rope for her students.
Most of the classes consist of girls in elementary and secondary school.
Some of them, like these two friends below, are studying to pass the Tawjihi.
This is the secondary school exam in Jordan that would help them get into a university.
“[The students’] enthusiasm for learning was obvious, their teachers inspirational,” Kasmauski wrote in an essay about her visit to the camp.
“Life inside a refugee camp certainly isn’t easy,” Kasmauski said. “The girls I met often spoke of home with fond memories. But the remedial support they receive through the MakaniPlus Centre offers them hope and a chance to successfully graduate from the Jordanian school system.”
“I came away from this trip feeling inspired and enlightened. These young women have faced overwhelming hardships, yet their passion for learning has only become stronger!” she added.
Kasmauski’s photos are eye-opening, not least of all because they show the inspiration and hope that education can spark, even in dire situations.
Seeing these photos really makes me appreciate my education in a way I never did before — and it also reminds me why it’s so important to welcome refugees into our communities with open hearts.