‘Since the beginning of the internal Syrian conflict (April 2011), and the number of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon has been increasing rapidly and the effects of this intensifying crisis have been escalating too. The people arriving to Lebanon are in desperate need for shelter, medication, food and clothing which many international and local organizations are working to supply as much as their capabilities allow. Thus, the needs are much more than what has been provided especially with the number of refugees mounting every day. Apart from the humanitarian and survival aids arises the need to accommodate the children of the refugees in schools to continue their education and spare them losing their academic years. So the Syrian refugees’ needs are not limited to shelter, food, clothing and medication which cover their basic life necessities, but transcends to the educational, mental and psychological needs of the school generation.
M.P. Bahia Hariri, president of Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development and in collaboration with the Schools Network for Saida and Neighboring areas proposed the idea of accommodating a number of the Syrian refugees’ school age children arriving to the city. A number of the network’s schools welcomed the idea and they agreed on assigning a class level to each of the schools involved. In 2012-2013 eight schools opened their doors to a total of 707 students and in 2013-2014 the same schools accommodated 2200 students. The Syrian students were integrated in all co-curricular and extra-curricular activities taking place in the school they attended. They also had the chance to mingle with the other school children in the playground during recesses, but were separated during subject classes so the teachers can cater to their academic needs which differed from their Lebanese class level mates.
The experience over the two years proved to be challenging and enriching on many levels and to all parties involved. In spite of all the difficulties that were faced by every school on all levels: logistically, financially, academically, etcâ€¦, there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Academically, the Syrian students were given the chance to continue their education in spite of being away from their homeland. Schools made various efforts to assist those children in overcoming their post-war traumas and psychological problems and incorporating them in as many activities as possible such as art, drama, music, and sports. On another level, teachers enriched their teaching experiences in dealing with children who were not exposed to the Lebanese curriculum before and had to cover their academic gaps in the best ways possible. The greatest gain was for the Lebanese students who had to welcome, share and communicate with children from different backgrounds and with different experiences. Tolerance, appreciation and empathy were some of these free valuable lessons the Syrian students offered to our children.’