Educated and unemployed

Syrians opt for higher education despite blockages to job market


“Education is a priority, but when you cannot work with your degree, then what is the use?” Ana’am says, holding her purse close while warming her hands next to a heater.

The 52-year-old Syrian mother of five finds it difficult for her sons to earn a living in Jordan when they cannot work. It’s even harder to understand because they are all educated. Ana’am and her husband made sure that their children attend schools and universities. “We just dropped off our son to register for his high school exam”, she says, resting while her husband stands in line waiting his turn.

The couple waits at the Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) Community Centre to receive cash as part of a winterization distribution to help refugees prepare for the winter and buy heaters and warm clothes. “Since we do not have a stable source of income, this money will help us buy the items we need for a while”, she says.

Many Syrian refugees have been sinking into poverty as the war at home drags on, increasing the risk of working illegally. Her eldest 26-year-old son holds a physics degree, however he have not worked since he graduated three years ago. “Farming or construction is not the type of work they ever thought they would be doing”, she says, explaining that no one wants to employ her sons or support them in obtaining a work permit within the field they studied.

The family, who comes from the city of Latakya, the principle port city of Syria, used all their savings to put their children in schools and universities. “Although school is free here, we paid around JOD 500 (some USD 700) in one year for our youngest son’s support classes for high school”, Ana’am says, knowing that her children’s education is important but questioning whether they will be able to use it one day.

Still hoping for a better future

The family has been living in a small province in Amman since the crisis started, where they have been struggling to pay rent as her husband was not able to find a consistent job: “he used to work for three or four days, but then he would not be able to find another for weeks”, she says. Now, he stopped looking for a job as his health has deteriorated and he is not able to stand for long periods of time.

Ana’am’s husband was diagnosed with diabetes. He was able to secure medication with the support of UNHCR for a while, however, after their latest visit to the health care centre in December, they were informed that their health support would be stopped and then renewed in February this year. “I did not fully understand why, but we will revisit them. Now we are buying the medications, and they are not cheap”, she says.

Now, Ana’am and her husband depend on their children for rent, electricity, water, and medical bills. Their sons sometimes find jobs but only for short periods of time, and they are not always within regulations.

The husband and wife left the center in a hurry to pick their son after registering for his first final high school exam, hoping that one day he will use his education to support and provide a better future for himself.