With just 4 million inhabitants, Lebanon has the world’s third highest number of refugees, and over a million Syrian refugees crossed the border into the country. However, living conditions are tough, particularly for displaced children, whose fundamental right to a quality education has been violated. The lack of available space, the price of transport, discrimination, as well as the unpredictable Lebanese enrollment rules and requirements, are the main obstacles to enrollment and attendance at public schools.
“I WAS OUT OF SCHOOL FOR ALMOST THREE YEARS AND IT MADE ME REALLY SAD, I FORGOT EVERYTHING I HAD LEARNED” / SOLAF, 13 YEARS OLD
Making up for the time lost during conflict and displacement is absolutely imperative, facilitating access to learning, play, and a dignified present and future. To that end, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and other areas in the country, guaranteeing the right to education for 3,500 refugee children and their enrollment in the Lebanese educational system, work that we support through the EPGO program. One of the great challenges for JRS is to compensate for all the knowledge children have forgotten in their years out of school. As Rania, a teacher at the Al Tayaani school, affirms: “education is the most important thing that children can have”.
“THE BEST ABOUT BEING A PROFESSOR AND THE THING THAT MAKES ME MOST HAPPY IS THAT THE CHILDREN FEEL SAFE WHEN THEY COME TO SCHOOL”/ AHAMAD, SYRIAN REFUGEE
“I’m in fourth grade right now, although I should be a year ahead, and make up those years. However, when we arrived here in Lebanon there were no schools until this one opened. I was out of school for almost three years and it made me really sad, I forgot everything I had learned,”” says Solaf, 13, originally from Damascus. She has been attending Nikseh JRS school in Bar Elias, a city in the Bekaa Valley, 13 km from the Syrian border. Although she has lived in Lebanon for five years, her 16-year-old sister is unable to go to school. “There are no school that will accept her without passing a test that she has to take in Syria, and for now she can’t go back”. Solaf says that she has good friends at school and learns and works hard. Her dream is to be a doctor. “I want to be a doctor, so that people won’t have to worry and I can help them get better”.
“EDUCATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT CHILDREN CAN HAVE” / RANIA,
PROFESSOR AT AL TAYAANI SCHOOL
The aid provided to children like Solaf includes their enrollment in school, maintaining educational infrastructures and equipping classrooms, providing educational materials, the daily school breakfast and basic hygiene products, transport, teacher training, extracurricular activities, and psychosocial care for students and families in schools.
“The best about being a professor and the thing that makes me most happy is that the children feel safe when they come to school”, explains Ahamad, a Syrian refugee who has taught at the JRS school in Nahyereh for three years. “Feeling safe is what matters most to them, and their dreams are also important, which is what JRS works towards: helping students to have dreams and want to pursue them. Without dreams the country can’t be fixed”, he reflects. “Life doesn’t stop, we have to go on living. We have many difficulties and we can overcome them”.