Theirworld helps Syrian refugee children return to school in Lebanon

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Sarah Brown, Teachers and learning

Nour is only 14. But already she has endured more horror and grief than most people can imagine.

She is originally from Jobar in the Syrian capital Damascus. Two of her siblings were injured in a rocket attack on their way to school – her sister survived her shrapnel wounds but her brother was killed.

More agony followed. Her family was caught up in a chemical attack and her father died.

Two years ago Nour and her family fled from Syria to neighbouring Lebanon. Until recently, she had been out of school for three years.

Now – thanks to support from the charity Theirworld – she is back in a classroom and learning. Along with 200,000 other Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, she is getting an education and a chance to rebuild her life through an innovative double-shift school system.

Sarah Brown visits students at Mtein school at Mount Lebanon Picture: Anthony Achkar

“I am happy because I am in school again,” said Nour. “Before I went to school I did not have friends – now I am not as shy.

“I was able to remember what I learned in Syria. I started using my mind again – when I was out of school I was unable to concentrate.”

Nour was among tens of thousands of children who returned to school in October. Theirworld – the parent charity of A World at School – has been developing projects to help children back into education.

That work has been supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery and A World at School’s #UpForSchool campaign – which demands that world leaders provide education for every child – has been backed by more than 10 million supporters.

Nour said: “Theirworld helped me a lot. Thanks to them, I was able to go back to school, unlike my siblings who are at home and have nothing to do other than play outside.

Nour returned to school after three years out of education

“Education gives me hope because I will become stronger. If I continue my education I will have the best future.”

The four-year Syrian conflict has left more than three million children locked out of education, with little hope of returning to school.

Lebanon is host to 1.2 million Syrian refugees and a third of them are out-of-school children.

Theirworld President Sarah Brown went to Lebanon to see the work the charity is doing, including:

  • Supporting children back into education through the double-shift system
  • Helping children in school through pilot projects providing milk and nutritious snacks so that children can concentrate and learn
  • Introducing better technology to the classrooms and training teachers to use it

Mayas takes part in a lesson at Ketermaya Public School

Sarah visited some of the children who have returned to school for the first time in years.

She said: “Hearing the stories of children who have been left out of school, you’re reminded just how hard a lesson they’ve had to learn being out of school – and how much they cherish the opportunity to be back there learning.”

Theirworld has been addressing the barriers to accessing the education and quality of learning, as well as helping to improve learning outcomes for vulnerable children.

Its programmes are simple, practical and effective. They have been proved to work – and with the backing of #UpForSchool supporters, we are creating a new generation of educated young people who can rebuild their homes, their communities and their country.

Children like Ahmad, who wants to become an engineer so that he can help to rebuild Syria after the conflict ends.

Students at Mtien school use a tablet provided by Theirworld as part of the Technology in Classrooms project

He and his sister Mayas also returned to school in October after being out of education for three years – two years at their former home in Jobar, Damascus, and one in Lebanon.

During that year, Ahmad, 14, worked at a petrol station and then a dollar store, hoping that one day he could go back to school. Mayas, who is 12, was at home helping her mother with cooking and cleaning.

Ahmad said: “Now that I am going to school I feel very happy. I feel like my dreams will come true.

“I feel like a normal child again – not a child who goes to work. School is everything to us. Now I have hope.”

Mayas, who wants to become a doctor, said: “I was very sad and kept wishing I could go back to school.”

Girl with a carton of free milk as part of Theirworld’s feeding programme

That finally happened when places became available at Ketermaya Public School through the double-shift system.

Mayas added: “On my first day at school I was very happy. But I felt a little sad when I remembered that there are still other children out of school.”

Theirworld now needs more people to:

  • Sign the #UpForSchool petition to support all children starved of an education due to emergencies around the world.
  • Donate to support pilot projects such as those in Lebanon and other programmes designed by Theirworld to support all the world’s most vulnerable children.

As Sarah Brown said, “We have the opportunity now to create more school places for Syrian refugee children and transform their lives.”

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