One of the first days at school we asked the children, what would you like to become? Most of the children answered with: "I want to be a teacher, a doctor or an engineer". These are the professions they see as significant in their surroundings. Which made me proud and sad at the same time, because these children want to make a better life for their future generation. They want to rebuild their country, but the same question as last time will occur. Do they get that opportunity??
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1.1 million refugees are registered in Lebanon. With their 4.5 million inhabitants this makes ¼ of the total population. This is a massive number of people to take care of within a short period of time. 500.000 are school aged children between 3-18 years old, half of them are out of school and will not get any education while being registered a refugee. (9-minute watch: No School for Thousands of Syrian Refugee Children by Human Right Watch https://youtu.be/nZVPuSzTu7Y). In Lebanon Syrian children have the right to go to school freely to primary and secondary education. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why the children are out of school. Some of the reasons are: parents don't have the legal documents, can't afford the costs for transportation and books, they need the children to work and earn money and many more reasons. To go to school, they have to pay around $13 per month for transportation. Which most of the parents can't pay, due to the fact they are not allowed to work in Lebanon. Another problem is the language, in Lebanon they teach in English or French, so the Syrian children need language support to be able to follow the classes. It seems that at least one of these issues might easily be solved if Lebanon changes their law that refugees are not allowed to work. Unfortunately, they can't do that on their own. They need support from other countries to decrease the number of drop outs of school.
* Based on information from the report of Human Right Watch
Every day I read and hear new stories, about this never ending crisis. On one hand it seems so far away, but at the same time I'm confronted with the reality daily while I'm here. Looking at the children, knowing they have been through a war, knowing I will not be able to relate and how to help them giving back their future. There is a lot we need to do to help this generation to give them a future. Laws and regulations need to change and our mindset needs to change. We need to see the refugees as people, they are fighting to survive, for their rights and basic needs. The parents want to send their children to school and want to give them the best change in life. To give them hope and a future.
There are a lot of initiatives to help and there are stories showing hope. The refugees are getting a face, due to stories like the Olympic Refugee athletes. Reading about the athletes being cheered by the audience during their competition gives me goose bumps and shows respect, recognition and hope.
I hope during my period at the schools I can give the children moments to forget their fear and current situation for a moment. I hope to give them a moment of fun and laughter, to show them that they are not alone in this crisis and that people care. I care and I want to make people aware of the situation. Personal stories are easier to relate to then stories shown every day in the 8 o'clock news.
During the summer I (Marijke Panis, Master student Watermanagment) will be a participant of the Nour project form AEISEC. The aim of the project is 'to create mutual understanding between the Arab and Western world'. I will work for 3 days a week in a refugee camp with children between 5-18 years old. I will blog every week about my experiences in the camp, Beirut, Lebanon and other interesting subjects which come to mind. For more information, you can check my website: http://marijkepanis.wordpress.com