Redefining the meaning of school for Syrian refugees

Since the Syrian civil war started nearly four years ago, almost 3 million Syrian children have been forced out of school. Sometimes we forget about the efforts that local NGOs and international humanitarian groups are doing. As one of BOB’s Certified Charity, we are amazed with the efforts that Kayany Foundation works towards providing Syrian refugee children to succeed in life.

Kayany's latest school in collaboration with Malala Foundation

Kayany's latest school in collaboration with Malala Foundation

BOB had a chance to speak to Firas Suqi, the Project Coordinator for Kayany, about the status of girls’ education in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and what we should know.

BOB : How have you seen the process of education change over the past four years for the average Syrian refugee?

Firas : As with most unforeseen crises, it takes time for the international community, government authorities, and local NGOs to reach a consensus on how to react as a cohesive unit. Lebanon is a unique case since the government forbids the formation of formal refugee camps, so the coordination of educational actors working in scattered informal tented settlements has been quite complicated. Now we’re seeing more cooperation between the stakeholders involved in the response and a common consensus of trying to transition Syrian refugees into Lebanese public schools. Programs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon are finally starting to formalize and move away from a lengthy version of playtime to having a formal school curriculum and eventually certification.

BOB : Can you think of any students/teachers who really made an impression on you while you have been working at Kayany?

Firas : While, all of the children have harrowing stories to tell, Zeinab’s story sticks out in particular. She’s 8 years old and currently lives with her grandmother since both her parents and siblings were killed outside of Aleppo. She somehow keeps a smile on her face while she speaks about her family in such a mature matter. More impressively, she’s one of the top performing students in her class and wears a smile regularly.

BOB : What do you think people outside of Syrian refugee camps need to know about the state of Syrian education that might surprise them?

Firas : 4 out of 5 (approximately 400,000) school-aged Syrian children are currently not receiving any education here in Lebanon, striking fear that an entire generation of Syrian youth will be lost. Additionally, trying to educate and organize a school system for the millions of children who will return to Syria one day will be another monumental challenge in and of itself.

BOB : What is the single most helpful thing people can do to help build up education at Syrian refugee camps for the refugees?

 Firas : People can help by raising awareness to the issue, particularly the unique case in Lebanon. Since there are no formal refugee camps here, the UNHCR and their partners are constantly trying to locate and reach all refugees in need. Also, now that the war has dragged on for four years, aid to Syrian refugees risks becoming a backburner issue.

BOB : If you had one message you would like to pass on, what would you say?

Firas : We’d just like to thank the international community for their help and support. Our work would be so much more difficult with the dedicated network of institutions and individuals working to assist in the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time.

BOB : What are some the future plans for Kayany?

 Firas : We’re hoping to have our programs officially certified by the Ministry of Education, but this might take some time. Construction of two more schools is underway and we’re always tirelessly working on innovative ways to support our current operations. 

BOB would also like to congratulate Kayany on an amazing first end of school year!



Author Bio:

"Hi, I'm Rev, 24 years old and a Master's student at Murdoch University, Western Australia. My hobbies include writing and baking of all sorts! Education has always played an important role in my life and B.O.B works towards that same goal of raising awareness and funds for the education of children in refugee camps. You get to work alongside selfless people that share the same perspective.