I am Angela Hanswillemenke from Germany and Lebanese Alternative Learning is my host organization in an 8 weeks internship. I get the chance to take a look into the educational system of Lebanon and the internal struggles with the Syrian refugee crisis. The main tasks for me with LAL are reviewing English chapters and digitizing Kindergarten content.
At the end of November, I had the chance to visit two schools for Syrian refugees in the Beqaa, in the east of Lebanon and close to the Syrian border. It was a great experience to see how Syrian children get educated while they live in Lebanon as refugees.
With the advice to bring a warm jacket, we started our trip in warmth of 20°C in Beirut and headed east towards the Syrian border. On the way through the fruitful Bekaa valley we passed many refugee camps, in which mostly Syrians found shelter. The camps are made of plastic tents, one close to the other and you can see people drying their clothes outside. Leaving the car one can feel that in the Bekaa there is another climate than at the coastal side of Lebanon: even with the warm winter jackets and proper shoes, everybody was freezing at around 5°C. Even as a German who is used to cold – especially at the end of November – I was still wondering how the Lebanese and Syrians can manage to cope with these temperatures, living without proper houses.
Our first stop was at a small primary school in which Syrian children get educated until 6th grade. It is a regular public school for Lebanese students, so the Syrians learn in the afternoon hours after 2 pm. By the time we arrived, the pupils were gathering at the school ground and singing English songs. The teacher explained later that he wants to get them into learning mode. It was really nice to see the motivated boys and girls walking straight to their classrooms without hesitation and smiling faces. Everybody was very welcoming and so I got the chance to take a glimpse at a Science lesson for second grade given by a female Syrian teacher. The children kept their jackets on, since it was not much warmer inside of the old building, which seems to be constructed for summer times. I was wondering how everybody could stay so much focused at these cold temperatures and shocked to see that some kids even came without jackets or warm winter shoes.
The lovely director of the school, who is doing this job since 1 to 2 years and opened her school for the Syrian refugee lessons in the afternoon in year 2012, showed us the newly build playground at the back of the school. She was very happy that the Lebanese children can benefit from the cooperation with the Syrian teachers as well.
The next stop on the road was at a private secondary school where young students get prepared for the Baccalaureate after 12 years. In this school, LAL will train teachers on the STEAM platform to enhance digital education and give the children a way of alternative learning. A look at the computer laboratory showed, that 20 students can study here at the same time. We also got to meet two former students who are now signed into the Bekaa University and will help the students with the online learning program. They told me that in the university they do not have computers except in one room and there is no need for them to use it so far. But the two young women are very interested in the medium and trained themselves in using the laptops for learning. With the training that LAL will provide, they are sure to manage the assistance job.
The director led us through the whole campus and showed us a special class that he is very proud of: a room full of young Syrian women who are going to take the Syrian exams in Damascus next year. Since the men will have struggles with the military service, it is only possible for women to take the Syrian Baccalaureate, but at least for them it is much easier this way, since they spend the first of their school in the Syrian school system.
In both schools the public primary school and the private secondary school we could feel the spirit of hope that the education the Syrian children get will help them in an after war time. Even though is was freezing cold in both buildings and the conditions are everything but perfect, both teachers and directors try to provide good education for the future generation of Syria. With the Tabshoura box and the STEAM platform they will be able to also learn digitally which will help them be prepared for the digital world.