Grade 9 Syrian refugee students from the school we support in Lebanon have recently taken their high school exams in Syria with a 100% pass rate. Read on to find out about their exam adventure.
The school we support for Syrian refugees in Zahle, Lebanon enables their older students to prepare for and then take the national Syrian exam back in Syria each year. For the past two years, small groups of Grade 9 students have crossed the border at the end of the summer term to take this exam, with huge success rates, thanks to the dedication and commitment of both students and their teachers.
The journey doesn't come without risk, but taking their exams in Syria enables the children to be prepared for a future at home in Syrian and allows them to continue their education if, and when a return to their home country is possible.
This years' cohort of 14 were preparing and revising during Ramadan, which fell during the last month before the Grade 9 class left to sit their exams in Syria. This meant that students were fasting both food and water during the day, as well as staying up late and waking up early to eat. These weren’t ideal circumstances for preparing for such an important exam, but despite these challenges, the students were focused and committed to studying as much as they could during their last weeks of revision.
It was quite a challenge this year for the team to convince understandably protective parents to allow their children to go to Syria for 26 days without them. One mother in particular was on the fence until the very last moment, and two teachers went to her house to be with her and comfort her, not only while her child went with the other students to the border, but over the course of the rest of time they were away.
The crossing into Syria went much smoother than last year’s. They did have to wait for hours at the border, and there was some speculation over students who had crossed into Lebanon unofficially, but everyone made it through safely.
All the students were well taken care of in Syria. They had hot meals delivered to them daily as well as school supplies, and they were able to communicate with their parents. The centre where they were staying offered revision lessons led by Syrian teachers to help them prepare for their exam, so all the students felt confident.
Once they finished the exam and were ready to return to Lebanon, some of the students who weren't vaccinated against Covid-19 had to wait a week for a PCR test. The vaccinated students returned home while the others waited for their PCR results in Syria. This was unfortunate, especially as the parents were so eager for their children to be home, but six days later they crossed the border back into Lebanon without incident.
Our partners in Zahle were so proud to hear that all 14 students passed which is such a huge accomplishment and all the teachers and parents are incredibly proud. Their success is also testament to the incredible staff at the school, who have supported Grade 9's to pass with flying colours not just this year, but in 2021 and 2020 too.
Her mother is a widow and many of her older siblings were killed in the Syrian war, so Hibba helps her mum out a lot and as a result, her Mum relies on her for everything, so she has had to grow up pretty quickly.
Hibba is one of the poorest members of the school, as her mum doesn’t have an income. They live in a makeshift tent they constructed from tarp and corrugated tin. This winter was extremely hard on them, and there were times Hibba couldn’t study at home because she was just too cold. The fuel vouchers provided by Children on the Edge this winter were very welcome as they provided the family’s only source of heat.
Despite these challenges, Hibba has embraced her studies head on and has been really involved in class activities, including the initiative earlier this to repair tents and support their communities through the winter. When the group assessed Hibba’s camp, they saw that her tent was leaking, so they all requested permission to give one of the sheets of tarpaulin to Hibba and her family, showing just how much love and respect her classmates have for her.
Her mother was also getting increasing pressure from other relatives, who were not supportive of her education, but the teachers at the school strongly advocated for Hibba. Everyone could see her potential, even the parents of other students, who joined in encouraging her mother to permit her to go to Syria.
At one point Hibba didn’t show up for school, as she felt it wasn’t worth it if she wasn’t going to be able to take her exam. Teachers and students encouraged her to keep attending, and to keep her hopes up that she would be able to go. Staff met with her mother regularly, helping to reassure her and ease her fears.
On the day of the journey to Syria, two teachers visited Hibba’s mother to cook and spend time with her, and encouraged her not to worry. Hibba was finally permitted to leave and she made it to Syria for her exam. Two of the teachers who live near Hibba’s mother looked after her during the time the students were away, even inviting her to stay with them on multiple occasions.
Hibba passed her exam, making everyone so proud. She even passed the English section, which was thought to be impossible considering she had virtually no English exposure at the beginning of the year.