More than two years after violence broke out in Syria, the civil war continues to devastate children’s lives. Many are deeply traumatised and have witnessed horrifying things, says Nada, Save the Children’s Education Officer in eastern Lebanon.
They are also being denied an education. This means they are deprived of the safety of a learning environment and that their future is being compromised. Childhood is already difficult for these displaced children; if they don’t go to school, adulthood will be, too. Attendance rates vary widely but we know that over 200,000 children are currently missing out on an education.
“When the security situation is unstable, Syrian families are reluctant to send their children to our classes,” explains Nada. “I was even told that some children are shy because they don’t have enough clothes and are wearing the same every day to school, or they don’t have enough food and feel constantly hungry. So they skip class.”
Save the Children has responded by running education programs for children who have fled Syria – and for the children from the local communities hosting them. The classes help the Syrian children fill in the gaps in their patchy education. In Bekaa, northern Lebanon, “we are reaching around 175 children in each school”, Nada says. “However, the biggest remaining challenge is transport, as it is costly and in many cases, the security situation makes it difficult to reach children”.
Crucially, both Lebanese and Syrian children are attending the catch-up classes and the interaction is very positive. Parents are very happy that their children are going to school. In one of the schools Save the Children is supporting, a parent committee has been set up; at the meetings, parents shared information about school dropouts and explained that lack of income is forcing some families to send their children to work.
“This is happening more and more,” Nada says. Parents also attend awareness sessions on positive discipline and learn how to help their traumatised children overcome their psychological distress.
Despite the importance of the work, a lack of funding continues to hamper the response. “Without confirmed funding, we are unable to recruit new teachers or to start operating in a new school,” explains Nada. ” This affects our programme delivery. We need to make sure we raise enough funds to sustain our activities”. Because, unfortunately, it looks like they’ll be crucial for quite a while yet.
By Mona Monzer and Rakan Diab, Save the Children in Lebanon