Syrian students are celebrating the opening of a new secondary school built by UNESCO in Basirma refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The Roj Awa Secondary School will be open to multiple shifts, allowing more than 500 students to access secondary schooling.

The ceremony, attended by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Local Administration of the Kurdistan Region, teacher and parents marka the beginning of a comprehensive outreach initiative to enrol students for the next academic year.

Secondary schooling has been available in Basirma camp since 2014/15. But, the previous building was so small it could only hold 60 students. The old school has now been replaced with a new building, constructed by UNESCO as part of the project ‘Improving access to secondary education for Syrian refugees in Iraq’, funded by the Government of Japan.

The new pre-fabricated building – comprised of six classrooms, one administration room, one storage and three toilet units – has been furnished and equipped by UNESCO. Three of the classrooms have been provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Speaking at the launch, Project Manager of the UNESCO Iraq office, Eszter Szucs said: “I am happy to see students and their parents here, together with hopefully future students and their parents. The school has practically a 100 per cent attendance rate with equal numbers of girls and boys and almost all students have passed the mid-year exam. Now, I would like to encourage all of you to please come and join the school from next year and tell your friends to do so – we have made it big, so it can welcome all of you! This is the only chance – and a good one – to make a difference for your future.”

Over 240,000 Syrians have entered Iraq since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, with 97 per cent concentrated in the three Northern governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Seven out of eight camps now have secondary schooling for Syrian adolescents, but the number of students accessing quality education remains limited, especially those in host community settings. UNESCO has constructed, rehabilitated and operates six of those schools.

The overall aim of the project ‘Improving access to secondary education for Syrian refugees in Iraq’ is to provide access to, and improve the quality of secondary education for young Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Also, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education in dealing with the impact of the Syrian Crisis and to support the provision of safe learning spaces, and teacher training. The project is an integral part of the wider UNESCO Education response to the impact of the Syria crisis and is reflected in the programmatic framework entitled “Bridging learning gaps for youth”