Crisis in Syria, part 4: Education brings hope to refugee children

Today's post -- the fourth in our weekly series about the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis -- is the story of an 8-year-old Syrian girl, Jouri, who loves learning but can't go to school in Lebanon. But now, having been enrolled in a World Vision education program, Jouri has hope.

If you missed them, check out the first, second, and third posts from this series.

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"Don’t be scared; the bombs will not hit us."

Those aren't the words of a mother reassuring her child. Those are the words of Jouri, an 8-year-old girl reassuring her mother while bombs were falling close to them in the Yarmouk area in Syria.

Jouri is brave, but she and her two siblings are still frightened. She used to count the sounds in her head, silently, so that her brother and sister would not be scared.

"Every explosion meant that someone died," she says. "We saw the planes, some passed very close over our heads."

Yarmouk, a Palestinian camp inside Syria, became the scene of intense fighting and was heavily bombed last October. Jouri and her family are Palestinian, but they were born and have lived all their lives in Syria. They've had to run for their lives, leaving behind everything: their house, their business, and Jouri's favorite place, her school.

"My school was big; it had two playgrounds with one swing and a lot of games," says Jouri. "The classrooms were colored, and I loved my teachers. I was very happy."

But this year, Jouri was only able to attend three weeks of school in Syria before it was hit repeatedly.

"There were still unexploded bombs inside the school, [so] we could not send our children there anymore," says Hala, Jouri's mother. Telling this news to Jouri was not easy -- not only because Jouri is a brilliant student, but because she loves education and is keen to do whatever is necessary to continue it.

"When we first came to Lebanon, I started nagging over and over on my dad to register me in school; but he kept on telling me there is no place for me," adds Jouri.

The Lebanon Ministry of Education authorized its public schools to accept Syrian refugee children at the beginning of this academic year, but space is limited and the educational infrastructure is poor. Also, most Syrian refugee children struggle with language difficulties, because the Syrian educational curriculum is in Arabic, whereas the Lebanese system includes English and French.

For Jouri, these hurdles would have been worth it, if it meant finding a place where she can learn.

World Vision has recently launched educational projects for Syrian refugee children. Over three months, 120 out-of-school children started receiving an accelerated learning program to help enhance their educational attainment and readiness for enrollment in schools when possible. They have the chance to learn languages and scientific courses.

Another 300 children between 9 and 14 years old from the Bekaa area, who got the chance to be enrolled in public schools but were having learning difficulties, will be supported with daily remedial classes to help them fill the learning gap.

"The longer a child is out of school, the harder it is to catch up with his peers and their education overall," says Lara Lteif, the education project coordinator. "Refugee children are among the most vulnerable to falling behind on the educational level, which might cost them their future."

Jouri's aunt, who lives with them, heard of World Vision's educational project in the village where they are currently residing and immediately registered Jouri and her 7-year-old brother, Khaled, for this program.

Jouri at the class that World Vision established for out-of-school children to start receiving accelerated learning. (Photo: Patricia Mouamar/World Vision)

"Coming here [to World Vision's educational project] is the best thing that happened to me since we [left Syria]," says Jouri, who has been in Lebanon with her family for 8 months but never complains about living with 16 other family members and relatives in an older two-bedroom apartment.

The change in the daily life of this family is enormous. They had to leave their newly constructed big house and their own business to save their lives. They had a small garden where Jouri played with her cat, birds, and goats. Her father owned a small seamstress factory that, along with their house, was hit by bombs.

Since they came to Lebanon, her father has not been able to work. Finding a job of any kind for a refugee in Lebanon is very difficult, let alone a well-paid one.

"I work the whole month for U.S. $100," says Jouri's aunt. "It is barely enough for bread."

"The problem is that it is even difficult for Lebanese to find jobs, especially in winter," one of the Lebanese neighbors living next to them says. "How can they hope to find better opportunities?"

Before the war in Syria began, Lebanon was already home to as many as 455,000 registered refugees from across the region. With a weakened economy and shrinking job market, the arrival of approximately 400,000 Syrian refugees puts more pressure on the local economy.

World Vision is reaching more than 62,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon with food vouchers and other aid.

For now, being in school is giving Jouri and other children the hope they need to survive these tough times.

Make a one-time donation to help World Vision provide emergency assistance for Syrian refugees. Your gift will help us deliver basic hygiene kits and food vouchers for refugee families, as well as established Child-Friendly Spaces to provide affected children with a safe place to play, learn, and interact with their peers.

Please join us in prayer for all World Vision staff members working around the world, particularly in this region of conflict.

Also, consider joining World Vision’s Hope Prayer Team. Each month, you’ll receive an email containing suggested prayer points for those in need, for World Vision’s work, and for our staff -- as well as news from around the world, guided prayer points for urgent requests, and links to other ways you can care for children in need.

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