In Lebanon we are working with a local partner to develop education programmes that support the needs of an incredibly traumatised refugee community. We run camp schools that use an interactive curriculum, taught in Arabic and based on Montessori techniques that use aspects from both the Syrian and Lebanese curriculum. This ensures that children can re-engage with learning and also develop the capacity to integrate into both societies.
Using Syrian teachers is vital
We work within refugee communities to identify members who have some form of education and train them to teach. The fact that teachers speak the same Arabic dialect as their students results in vastly more effective communication, compared with a situation where children are forced to struggle with an unfamiliar language.
Syrian teachers also know and understand the culture of the children they work with. Many have been through similar experiences and traumas to their students and are able to empathise with the situation they find themselves in. The teachers are avid learners with genuine dedication to being a changing force within the camps. Teacher training is not only providing them with livelihood opportunities, but a strong sense of project ownership in educating their own community.
Since the outset of our pilot we have seen children and communities in Bekaa Valley thrive. Children are fully engaged with learning and several students who started out timid and afraid of making mistakes have flourished. The games and interaction with teachers has created a comfortable, fun environment and the children are inspired to excel.
Hala was about 8 years old when she started attending our school. It was her first time in a class, as until then she had stayed home helping her mother with housework. It took Hala a long time to adjust to the school environment. She was argumentative and would leave whenever she felt like it. She wouldn’t obey teacher's instructions if they didn't suit her and didn't understand why the other girls were so keen to excel both academically and behaviourally. Why try to impress the teacher? What's the point?
Hala was behind academically and, though she is bright, she always took at least a half hour longer than her peers to complete assignments. Her teacher, Ahmed finally sat her down and chatted with her. Speaking the same language meant the flow of communication was easy and he was able to lay down some boundaries for what was and wasn't allowed in school. He was also able direct Hala's gaze to some of the female students in her class who were doing really well and could be a good role model for her. He could explain about what inspires them to learn. After this time, she really took off academically. Hala now has a real knack for seeing the big picture, asking good questions, and "translating" for others, whether that's helping a teacher explain themselves, or helping her peers understand the task at hand. We've seen her natural spark and confidence shift towards something productive and beneficial for herself and others.
There are many, many stories like this, that demonstrate how crucial it is to have Syrian refugees teaching Syrian refugees. Consequently we are looking to scale up and create more schools which implement these methods in other refugee camps throughout the the Bekaa Valley area.
You can find out more about this work here