Education for Syrian Refugees in Akkar, Lebanon

Collection with 10 media items created by Transterra Editor

16 Jan 2014 07:00

Children running in pajamas and sandals along the frozen field, while their fathers and grandfathers are building the house of a Lebanese family for free, is the first sight you see as you enter the Syrian refugee settlement of Minyara, in Akkar. It is a vision of despair for the Syrian refugees, in a mountainous region where a 3-month-old Syrian baby died of cold in December 2013. But something else you see as you enter the settlement that these Syrians families from Qusayr rent every year from a Lebanese field-owner for $1000, you understand that there are kids are just having fun between two school lessons.

Inside two tents, warmed by a wood-burning stove, small tables and chairs constitute minimalist classrooms. Muhammad, a Syrian teacher whose right arm has been wounded by a bullet in Qusayr, teaches Arabic, mathematics and sciences through songs, games and books he made up, thanks to his 15 years of experience as a teacher in Syria. As for English and French, two volunteer teachers from the NGO Relief & Reconciliation for Syria come every morning to help Syrian children from 1st to 6th grade with these foreign languages, compulsory to enter the Lebanese school system.

Children are cold and traumatized by what they have gone through in Qusayr. After fleeing their city, they walked for 16 km under the bombs of the Syrian regime in summer 2013. Despite this, now education is their hope for a better future and their motivation is boundless. In 2013, 85,000 Syrian children were registered in Lebanese public schools and 100,000 in informal ones, according to Maha Shuayb, director of the Center for Lebanese Studies. But 97 percent of Syrian children drop out of the Lebanese education system. Illiteracy may then be the major issue for the 1.3 million of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, as 50 percent of them are children.

Obstacles such as the language gap and the necessity for many Syrian families to rely on their children’s work to survive limit the access to education. In Minyara, Relief & Reconciliation helps children who try to enter Lebanese schools, but also those who decide to work, with vocational training such as electricity and couture. As Friedrich Bokern, director of the NGO, explains to the children gathered under the tent of the classroom: “Whatever you will decide to do, don’t be afraid. You are the future of Syria.”

Lebanon Akkar Syrian Refugees Syrian Children Human Interest Syrian Conflict Syrian Civil... Human Rights Developpement Eduction

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In Akkar 1
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

The first barrier for Syrian education is language: “Syrian children - especially those above 12 years old- face challenges as they would be completely adapted to the Syrian curriculum- when studying the Lebanese curriculum. In Syria, all subjects are taught in Arabic while either French or English are the language of instruction in Lebanon”, explains Aseel Jammal Caballero, from UNHCR. In the camp, young children learn very fast, according to their French and English volunteer teachers. But the older ones usually have to help adults to work, in construction for boys, nurse or couture for girls.

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In Akkar 2
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

While children are at school in the camp, teenagers are building a house for a Lebanese family next to the camp, where they have to rent the field to its owner: "They don't pay us for this work. Because we are Syrians!", explains one of the worker, a former farmer who shows pictures of his house in Qusayr, full of cows and goats on his phone, with a melancolic smile.

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In Akkar 3
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
11 Jan 2014

While men are building the camp, settling electricity and wood-burning stoves, women take care of their youngest children and prepare food. Most of the families don't have any home to come back to. Should they have to stay in Lebanon, their children's education would be the only way for them to obtain a decent life. This mother's girl is going to a vocational training of nursing in Halba. She hopes her daughter will be able to work soon.

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In Akkar 4
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

Food, shelter, money for clothes... Education is not on the top list of priorities for many refugee families who have to struggle in their everyday life. Investing money to register their children at school is sometimes impossible in these conditions.

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In Akkar 5
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
11 Jan 2014

Young children are the most able to learn foreign languages, and thus to integrate the Lebanese school system. According to the minister of Education, 40 000 Syrian children follow the morning shift and 45 000 the second shift, in the afternoon, of the Lebanese school system. "But because of the language, many children enter a grade much below their real level. I saw a Syrian girl who repeated her grade for the third consecutive year because of English. The Lebanese system lacks of flexibility", affirms Maha Shuayb, director of the Center for Lebanese Studies, specialized in education.

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In Akkar 6
halba, lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

Mustapha was a teacher in Qusayr. Long enough to design books and exercise books for the children of the camp. Here, Syrians did not wait for NGO’s: since they arrived in Lebanon two years ago, they built two school classes in the camp. All their children get up at 8 am to sing their lesson in Arabic or memorize mathematic rules.

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In Akkar 7
halba, lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2013

In Meshmesh, an isolated village near the Syrian border, the volunteer of Relief&Reconciliation teach French and English in a school without heating where children can hardly concentrate because of the cold. One of them smiles as he just received his certificate of French. But at 15 years old, he says he will not join the Lebanese school, because he needs to work to help his family to survive.

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In Akkar 8
Halba, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

In the camp near Halba, the Syrian community built everything, from the school to the tents. They are now extending it with six new small houses to face winter. For the children and teenagers working in construction, Relief&Reconciliation is beginning a program of extra tutoring, to avoid their definitive removal from school.

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In Akkar 9
halba, lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

“Most of the children had to walk for more than 15km under the bombing of Assad’s regime from Qusayr to Arsal, in Lebanon”, explains Friedrich Bokern, founder of Relief&Reconciliation.

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In Akkar 10
halba, lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
10 Jan 2014

Just before arriving to Halba, the capital of Akkar, the car of the French volunteer teacher from Relief&Reconciliation turns left. Among the agricultural fields, a Syrian camp have been settled to host hundreds of families from Qusayr and Homs. Every day, the children receive French and English lessons for free from the NGO's teachers.