Syrian child refugees struggle in Lebanon

Sophie Ghaziri

Published: Updated:

Young Syrian refugees in Lebanon worry about their future, but there may be a sliver of hope.

This week, Syrian students at a school in northern Lebanon did their final exams, a possible opportunity for some kind of normalcy.

There are at least 530,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, more than half of them under the age of 18, according to the United Nations.

The Lebanese Education Ministry is now the deciding factor. Will it take these children’s dreams away, or open up doors for a brighter future?

“The exams will be corrected and then passed on to [Syria’s main] opposition National Coalition, which will see whether they can be recognized,” said Zakaria Sabbagh, who heads the Islamic Education charity’s teaching section.

This question is key, since most of the students who fled Syria with their families left with just the clothes on their back.

School records, exam results, teacher recommendations and official education certificates are all back home, in schools that may not even exist anymore.

“They have psychological problems. Some of them have lost their parents, others saw their houses destroyed, and [many] had to face extreme difficulties to leave their country,” said school supervisor Umm Tareq, Agence France Presse reported.

In an effort to counter this, Syrian academics and activists have come together to form the Syrian Educational Commission in Lebanon.

The aim of the group is to streamline a Syrian syllabus, partner with Lebanese private schools, and hand out certificates that are recognized by the Lebanese government.

However, the Education Ministry has made it clear that Syrian students will still have to sit for the Lebanese Baccalaureate, which all Lebanese students take after senior year to qualify for university.

“I hope the Education Ministry establishes a center where Syrian students can take the official exams of their country,” Ahmad al-Hajj , the coordinator of the Syrian students program at Rawafed School in Lebanon, told the Daily Star.

However, the ministry says this is impossible, given the absence of an official request from the Syrian government.

Not just exams

Syrian refugee students are not only struggling with getting their exams recognized, but also with their environment, adapting to a system which for them is foreign and often antagonistic.

Looking at how bleak the future looks for war-ravaged Syria, the life of a refugee - whether a child or adult - seems equally unjust and austere.

Sophie Ghaziri

Lebanese schools teach certain subjects in English and French, whereas the Syrian system has always taught in Arabic.

Students that are struggling with the language barrier have reportedly been put into religious schools.

Lebanese and regional media have reported that lately, teachers are greatly concerned about the rise of extremism among students as they focus their thoughts on fighting.

“They now tie everything to war and weapons,” a Syrian teacher at a Lebanese school told local media. “I can’t explain a lesson without the discussion drifting onto politics.”

Teachers are beginning to realize that they are not only there to educate, but also to heal.

Along with the post-traumatic stress of war is the integration of Syrian children and families among Lebanese nationals.

There is a long and often-bitter history between Lebanon and Syria, and the violence and refugee influx has increased tension and discrimination in Lebanon.

This is most obvious in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, which have become hotbeds of hostility for angry adults. This is now spilling over into school playgrounds and cafeterias.

Looking at how bleak the future looks for war-ravaged Syria, the life of a refugee - whether a child or adult - seems equally unjust and austere.


Sophie Ghaziri is a Shift Editor at Al Arabiya English. She has previously worked as a producer, presenter and a writer at the BBC, Al Jazeera and she was Head of English at Future News in Lebanon for 2 years. She can be followed on Twitter on: @sophieghaziri

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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