In Lebanon, we have been working with Lebanese NGO - Triumphant Mercy since 2014, providing quality education in a child friendly environment for nearly 300 Syrian refugee children. These children live in the informal refugee settlements of Bekaa Valley, who often struggle to access education and support.
The project started with four tent schools in the refugee camps in Bekaa Valley but in 2019 the children were brought together in one central building in Zahle, a nearby city. Students, together with trained refugee teachers, are driven in by bus from the camps to learn together in safe, colourful classrooms and have fun with friends in the large play space outside.
As with so many schools around the world, the Zahle school has been closed for much of the past year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Lebanon has also faced further crisis in recent months; economic collapse, political rioting, a devastating explosion in the capital of Beirut along with continual lockdowns. But our teachers have been incredibly resilient, working tirelessly to come up with solutions to ensure the children can still have access to learning back in the camps. On World Refugee Day, we take a look at what our refugee teachers have been doing to offer home learning and support to the refugee children we support in Lebanon.
Teachers have also been holding impromptu classes in the camp at students’ homes and in some cases even hosted classes at their own homes. In addition to providing homework and camp-based lessons, they are conducting online classes and telephone classes. These are often challenging for the students to attend as many have poor internet connection or phone reception, or only one phone per family which is often taken by a parent to work. So teachers follow up with students who are unable to attend to make sure they don’t fall behind.
The children have remained very eager to learn during this difficult time and, despite continuously asking when school will reopen, have been working together to complete their assignments. All the students were even able to complete their mid term exams, and our Grade 9 students have been able to cross the border to take their Syrian high school exams.
In recent feedback from the students, we heard that the stress of repeated lockdowns seems to have calmed down and home learning has now become familiar, although everyone is looking forward to a return to normality. It seems that after the initial dip in their confidence brought about by a disruption to routines, this is slowly improving, with children now happily engaging in learning and trying difficult tasks.
Teachers echo what the children have said and described how everyone has got used to home learning and are trying really hard. At the start of the pandemic, they noticed dramatic negative changes with children feeling lost, confused, not connected to others and not completing homework.
Programme Manager, Nuna Matar says: “The teachers have actively done everything in their power to make sure their students are receiving the best education they can provide in the current pandemic climate”.
The programme in Lebanon continues to have far-reaching positive impacts on the lives of the children, their families, their teachers and their teachers’ families. The children we support continue to express how much they use their learning outside school, from going to the shop for their parents and being able to count change, to reading signs in the camp, reading script on television, learning respect for others, improving in their knowledge of geography and planet earth and telling stories to other children in the camp.
Even in the midst of a seemingly relentless crisis, hope is growing. One teacher said “At the beginning the children asked “what future”? We’re in a camp, we can’t do anything, but now after lessons they have a sense of identity and hope for the future.”
£100 CAN EDUCATE A CHILD IN A SAFE SPACE FOR A YEAR
Children on the Edge works alongside a number of refugee communities in some of the toughest situations around the world. We co-create protective environments where children who have had to flee their homes can safely live, play, learn and grow.