An Education Project for Syrian Refugee Children in Zahle!
On October 4, 2013 the True Vine School in Zahle opened its doors to 127 eager, young Syrian students. The school is an offshoot of LSESD’s partner Church the True Vine Evangelical Church in Zahle [also known as Zahle Baptist Church], which continues to expand its ministry to over 700 Syrian refugee families in the Bekaa Valley. It is the realization of the vision of pastor Jihad Haddad and new school principal, Richard Raya, and no doubt the fulfillment of a dream for many Syrian families. “The children were so happy this morning,” reported one Syrian mother, “They were up early dressing themselves and getting ready for school. It’s been two years!” For many of the children it’s been a year to three years since they last attended school. When asked their grade, the children are always quick to add what level they should be at. “I’m in the 4th grade,” says eleven year-old Salwa as she helps her six year-old sister with her backpack, “But I should be in the 7th grade.”
The school consists of Kindergarten – Grade 4, and classes are held Monday through Friday from 8:30-12:15. They are currently using a Syrian curriculum and have employed primarily Syrian teachers from the refugee community. However, one of Principal Raya’s long-term goals is to teach the children English so that they can eventually integrate into the Lebanese school system. In order to enroll, each student completes an entrance exam and the family pays a minimal enrollment fee based on an assessment of their financial ability. Principal Raya shared with us the story of one of the families- “They showed up at my office door a few days ago when we were locking up. The mother was explaining to me their situation – that her husband is disabled, that they live in a home that was given to them by the community, that they receive their food from the neighbors, and then her seven year-old daughter turned to me and said, ‘Please, beloved teacher!’” Raya smiled, “What could I say? I filled out the enrollment forms with them right then and there.”
In addition to giving each student a brand new backpack, water bottle, and school supplies; the children are provided with transportation to and from school. “Their homes are so spread out that we couldn’t have afforded to have them dropped off individually,” explains Principal Raya, “But the bus driver was generous with us.” At the end of the first day, 10 year-old Ibtisam is all smiles. “What did you learn today?” “I learned the rules of the school – that this school is like our home now.” When asked how he feels about teaching at the True Vine School, the response of one of the third grade teachers is overwhelmingly positive, “It’s so good to be around kids- they give me joy. They are our hope.”
This education project is part of LSESD’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, and which we are implementing in partnership with local churches and community based organizations in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. For more information &/or to partner with LSESD, click here.
Suzie Lahoud | October 4, 2013 | www.LSESD.org