Summer school supports refugees in Lebanon

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

Syrian refugee children take part in a summer learning activity offered by the Damma group. Various summer programmes are helping Syrian and Lebanese students get up to speed ahead of the new school year. [Photo courtesy of Damma]

Syrian refugee children take part in a summer learning activity offered by the Damma group. Various summer programmes are helping Syrian and Lebanese students get up to speed ahead of the new school year. [Photo courtesy of Damma]

Hundreds of Syrian refugee children have been preparing for the new school year in Lebanon by attending summer educational programmes developed by local and international organisations.

One such programme, offered by Save the Children, provides homework support to Syrian students enrolled in public schools and struggling Lebanese students.

The programme "helps them complete their homework with assistance from a group of teachers who are qualified to provide them with the needed support", Save the Children spokeswoman Sandy Maroun told Al-Mashareq.

It targets all children who need learning support, regardless of nationality.

"These activities are part of a wider educational programme implemented by the organisation in various areas of North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, Beirut and Mount Lebanon, free of charge," she said.

Programmes like this give children a new opportunity to learn and keep students from dropping out, she said, adding that both Syrian and Lebanese students "are responding very well".

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assigns 325 homework support groups during the school year, and continues to do so through the summer break, said UNHCR senior public information assistant Joy Yazbek.

According to Yazbek, 70% of these support groups are continuing their work in the summer.

Out of 2,478 Syrian refugees between the ages of 6 and 14 who receive support during the academic year, 1,800 are benefiting from educational activities in the summer, led by 265 Lebanese and Syrian volunteers, she told Al-Mashareq.

UNHCR has been working in collaboration with Save the Children, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Caritas and Terre des Hommes to implement these activities, she added.

Early childhood education

The Beyond Association also has been providing a range of summer learning activities for refugee children, some of which are focused on early childhood education and others on literacy, said Inass Amhaz, of Beyond.

The early childhood education activities set "a number of educational and learning goals related to linguistic, cognitive, social, kinesthetic and emotional growth", she explained.

"Early childhood activities are aimed at helping 4- and 5-year-olds integrate quickly and effectively into kindergarten classes in the 2017-2018 academic year," Amhaz told Al-Mashareq.

Beyond's literacy-related activities target children between the ages of 6 and 14, and help them develop their reading and writing skills in Arabic and English, as well as their communication skills, she said.

These activities also "help develop scientific skills, such as the ability to engage in numerical activities and solve simple mathematical problems", she added.

By acquiring these skills, the children will be ready to begin the next school year, she said, whether they are attending regular public schools or participating in informal education programmes.

The association also has been reaching out to children and caregivers inside the camps and in the areas where it operates to raise awareness about the importance of education and guide them to the educational services available.

Making learning fun

The Damma group, a Syrian women's group licensed to operate in Lebanon, has been conducting a summer learning programme for refugees living outside the camps in residential areas of the western Bekaa Valley.

"At the beginning of summer, the group began implementing educational programmes based on the Lebanese curriculum to increase students’ proficiency in mathematics, physics, Arabic and English," said programme co-ordinator Ghada Abu Mesto.

These included a computer class and other programmes focused on psychological support and artistic activities, she told Al-Mashareq.

These activities, which began in July and will continue through mid-September, are being offered in the Gaza and Marj areas in the western Bekaa Valley.

"The morning learning programmes are attended by 110 students from kindergarten through 6th grade, while the evening programmes are attended by 50 Syrian and Lebanese 6th to 9th grade students," Abu Mesto said.

"We are working in the summer to strengthen the students in subjects in which they are weak so they can enter school at a good level," she said.

"We combine learning with fun by introducing fun activities that motivate them to learn, and they are responding well to what we are offering them."

Education is of vital importance, Abu Mesto said, but the most important outcome of the activities is the "integration of Lebanese and Syrian students".

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