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In spite of the difficulties, however, construction continues. “The camp is in real need of more schools at the present,” says Miss Schak. In the past few years there has been a “population explosion” at Baqaa, she adds, so there are more children to educate. The official population is 63,773, but the actual count is around 80,000. By American standards that’s a fair-sized city, and the last thing any city or town or village wants to do is neglect the education of its children.

If it does, the children’s gifts will be lost not only to their country but to the world. The children themselves will be locked into the same pattern of poverty and frustration that traps their parents. The climate of anger and hostility that pervades the refugee camps will continue to poison the inhabitants, even the ones who manage to break away.

Parents everywhere make sacrifices to obtain a good education for their children. They know it is the best hope their children have for achieving economic security, peaceful and productive family lives, and personal fulfillment. The parents in Jordan’s refugee camps are no different. They have watched their own dreams die, extinguished by war and injustice. They are determined not to watch their children’s dreams die too.

With the cooperation of the Pontifical Mission and UNRWA, children like Fathiyeh and Hiyam and Omar may have the opportunity that so many Western children take for granted: to plan a bright future and know that it can become a reality.

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Claudia McDonnell is a freelance writer.

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Tags: Children Palestine Jordan Education Refugee Camps