The city of Sirjan, in the southern Iranian province of Kerman, has been hosting Afghan refugees for decades. Approximately 10 per cent of the province’s population is Afghan.
Afghan children can enrol in Iranian public schools regardless of their legal status, thanks to a 2015 decree from the Government of Iran. Access to education, especially for young girls, remains one of the primary concerns for people fleeing Afghanistan. More than 600,000 Afghan children enrolled during the 2023/24 school year in Iran. As this number rises, children will increasingly face the challenge of securing a place at school.
To address the growing need for educational spaces, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provided and equipped Payambar Azam primary school with 12 new classrooms. The work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grieg Foundation and a partnership with Education Above All’s Educate A Child (EAC) programme with support from Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD).
Over 22,000 classrooms across the country are now dedicated solely to Afghan students.
The project started in 2019. Despite several challenges, including delays due to the pandemic, the school was inaugurated in 2023. Some 120 Afghan girls are currently studying at the Payambar Azam school alongside their Iranian classmates, and more will register next year.
“Parents are now more eager to send their girls to school,” says Hooman, NRC specialist who has been working on the project since the beginning.
Even with Iran’s inclusive policies on access to education for refugees and girls, many barriers remain, including cultural ones. A lack of adequate infrastructure and the geographic remoteness of many communities make it hard for some refugees to access education. With the new school in place, however, those who live near Payambar Azam will not need to worry about these barriers anymore.
Disaster-proofing the school
Iran is a disaster-prone country and regularly experiences earthquakes and floods. The school was therefore built with disaster preparedness in mind. It was constructed with lightweight blocks for better resistance in an earthquake, and double-glazed windows for energy efficiency. It also has a solar-powered water heater.
NRC in Iran
Since 2012, NRC in Iran has been assisting displaced Afghans as well as Iranian host communities. We work to improve protection and access to basic humanitarian services across 11 provinces: Alborz, Tehran, Yazd, South Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Razavi Khorazan, Qom, Marzaki, Semnan, and Sistan and Baluchestan.
Since mid-2021, we have scaled up our work in Iran significantly in connection with recent developments in Afghanistan, while maintaining all existing programmes.
About NRC’s partnership with Educate A Child
NRC is partnering with Education Above All’s Educate A Child programme to rehabilitate classrooms and toilets in schools and provide cash assistance for education purposes. Through these interventions, we aim to minimise the risk of children abandoning their studies and encourage those who have been forced to do so to return to school.
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