Jbeil, Lebanon, 20 October 2015 – Even before the Syrian war started, Lebanon was amongst the most densely populated countries in the world. Since 2011, nearly between 1.5 and 2 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon. Over 25% of the population in Lebanon is now Syrian; hence, schools are overcrowded and waiting lists are long. Many refugee children find themselves out of school two to three years.
Syrian children face a plethora of barriers trying to enter into the Lebanese public school system. Language barriers, entrance exams, lack of transport costs and xenophobia by public school teachers and other students make access to school more than difficult.
The JRS centre in Jbeil, Lebanon, helps Syrians by providing language catch-up classes, psychosocial counselling and other services to refugee children and their families. After living through the trauma of war, most of the children need more than a traditional education. The children's before-and-after drawings show, in their eyes, what life was like before displacement, during the war in Syria, and after they fled to Lebanon and enrolled in the JRS programmes.
Over 550,000 Syrian children in Lebanon are out of school.
The JRS Jbeil centre serves 500 Syrian children – 250 in the morning shift and 250 in the afternoon shift.
In Syria, where mortars and bombings were a daily risk, many children could not leave their houses.
"I would say goodbye to my mom before I left to go to teach each day," Syrian refugee and English teacher at the JRS Jbeil centre recalls of life in Aleppo before she fled. "They just shoot, not thinking people are actually walking there. You leave your house never knowing if you're coming back."
Many children in Syria could found themselves stuck at home. The could not attend school after the military or rebels occupied their schools.
As access to school is hindered by long waiting lists, language barriers and xenophobia by public school teachers, many children go to work. One family that JRS serves says her two boys, ages 11 and 12 work at the local grocery story for $100 and $150 a month respectively. JRS works to help children transition into the Lebanese public school system.
"These children have been traumatised and need more than a traditional education," says Majed Mardini, a teacher at the JRS Jbeil centre. "All of us play a double role as social worker to provide support for the children, to teach them how to behave, how to interact, how to like each other."
"Many of the children have been out of school so long, they don't know how to be in school," says Majed Mardini, a teacher at the JRS Jbeil centre. "When they re-enrol, they are basically starting from scratch. Thus, teaching morals and conduct is key."
The JRS Jbeil centre provides the children a sense of normalcy. They are able to form a community after losing so much.
The JRS Jbeil centre offers different psychosocial programming, such as interactive puppet shows, in which the children can act out their experiences. JRS also offers workshops for parents on how to treat their children at home and how to help them deal with trauma.
"They children used to fight when they played. It was all they knew," said English teacher, Catherine Mora. "But after two sessions at the JRS centre, they have improved immensely. They now play with each other. Sometimes I see them playing 'English class' at recess where one pretends to be the student and the other plays me as the English teacher."
The Jbeil centre serves an equal number of male and female students and has 24 teachers, both Syrian and Lebanese, who work together and serve as positive examples of successful integration into a new host community.
--Photos y articulos de Jacquelyn Pavilon, Acting International Communications Coordinator