Laura McAdams is International Programs Coordinator at Islamic Relief USA.
Enas was nine years old when her and her family fled Syria more than a year ago in January 2014. Their home is now a simple tent in eastern Lebanon in one of the more than four hundred informal settlements that are scattered throughout the country. Because there are no formal refugee camps in Lebanon, families like Enas’ have had to find shelter in these settlements, often set up on agricultural land with varying degrees of access to basic services like clean water, latrines, healthcare and education.
Like many other refugee children, when Enas arrived in Lebanon she wasn’t attending school, even though she had been a bright student who enjoyed school back in Syria. The nearest, still-running public school in Syria had physically run out of space to accommodate more students, despite the fact that teachers were teaching two shifts of classes a day, and Enas’ parents wouldn’t have been able to afford the school fees anyway. Lebanon’s schools have kept their doors open to Syrian refugee children, but lack of resources means that only about a fifth of the more than 500,000 elementary school-aged refugee children are enrolled and attending school. (more info on this at UNHCR.org)
Too many Syrian refugee children do not have access to quality, safe learning spaces. To address this, Islamic Relief and partners in Lebanon have constructed, furnished and staffed a new elementary school so that children living in the nearby informal settlements can start or complete their elementary education. By October 2014, 300 students enrolled in Al Andalus School and could attend classes free of charge. The school is also equipped with a computer lab, a teacher’s workroom, and a psychosocial classroom to ensure the wellbeing of children who have experienced trauma during the conflict in Syria. The school even has an indoor and outdoor play area.
Enas was so excited to start school back up again at Al Andalus and likes to make the short walk to school, even though transportation is provided.
“I love painting and football,” said Enas, who is now able to study and play with her friends like she used to back in Syria.
Her education gives her hope for the future, and because of it, Enas is more likely to make informed decisions on how to care for herself and others in difficult environments.
In times of conflict and disaster, just as in times of peace, all children have the basic human right to education. When children like Enas don’t have access to a quality education that helps them learn, they are being deprived of the foundation that will help them build a better future. Under the umbrella of UNICEF’s “No Lost Generation” initiative, Islamic Relief USA is committed to ensuring access to learning and psychosocial support to protect the futures of Syrian children like Enas and other children around the world.
We continue to pay attention to Syria, and we hope you will too. To learn more about IRUSA’s Syrian Humanitarian Aid, visit irusa.org/syria.