Back in Lebanon
“I am back in Lebanon! For a few days, though. In November I moved to live with my father in Sweden, who arrived there three years ago. After we had to flee the war in Syria, my family used to live together in Libanon. After living there for a while, we decided as a family that there was no future for us there and my father took of to Europe. It is good to be back in Lebanon and get some sunshine, because Sweden is so cold! Also, I am super excited to visit the school, named Gharsah, again. It is the school me and my family build for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.”
I am back in Lebanon because next week I will be attending the Laureates and Leaders Summit 2018 in Jordan. This year, laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize and other leaders will discuss the challenges that children and youth on the move face. One of the biggest challenges for refugee children is to access school. I know, because I have been out of school for two years myself, when I was living in Lebanon. There were not enough places in the schools in Lebanon and my family did not have enough money to send me to a private school, which are very expensive in Lebanon. I passed by everyday to see if there was a place available, but eventually it took me two years to get back to school. In the meantime, I started Gharsah, my own school for refugee children, because I wanted to make sure that other Syrian children could continue their education. This was the reason that last year I won the International Children’s Peace Prize. After winning the prize I want to tell the world my story and the stories of many other Syrian children, who have not been to school for years.
So, in the run up of the Laureates and Leaders Summit next week, I am in Lebanon and Jordan. I’m here to talk to children and youth, who, like me, had to flee Syria. I am talking with them about their experiences with finding a place in school, the difficulties they face and also about the quality of the schools and teachers. I went to the Bekaa, a region in Lebanon, where a lot of refugees live. I used to live there myself as well. I spoke to children who are in public schools in Lebanon. They told me that they had been out of school for one, two, or sometimes even three or four years. They really have to do their best to catch up again, but they are managing! I was shocked to hear from many of the children about teachers hitting children. All of them knew stories like that and many of them have been beaten themselves, sometimes even with sticks. A school where children are hit, is not a place where children can learn! If children are not safe in school and they cannot learn anything, they will drop out. This happens a lot. I was very happy that they talked very openly with me about the obstacles they face. The information is very useful as input for next week. I will definitely make sure that their stories are heard.
After three days in Lebanon, seeing Gharsah again and collecting valuable information, we will leave Lebanon to Jordan to do some focus groups here as well. Tomorrow we will meet the first group and I’m really excited to listen to those refugees talking about education and the schools. I’ve never been in Jordan and this is my chance to get to know more about refugees status around the world.
Mohamad Al Jounde