June 20th was World Refugee Day, observed all over the world to raise awareness of refugees like Lama, a ten-year-old little girl and now a refugee living in Lebanon.
She did nothing, other than exist, to become a refugee. She harmed no one, yet she feels the wrath and the hate of many. She is afraid. Yet she wants to learn how to build a home…for you. Only a good heart and education can do that. She has the former, and some are providing the latter.
She harmed no one, yet she feels the wrath and the hate of many.
“My dream is to become an engineer. As an engineer, I can design homes,” 10-year-old Lama said.
Lama and her family, shown in the video attached to this story (below), fled from the Syrian conflict and now live in northern Lebanon.
Lama and her family live just a few kilometers from their homeland…
Before the war intensified in Syria, Lama and her family were settled. They lived in a home and Lama’s father had a job. “We were doing okay,” said Lama’s mother. “I hope when they grow up, they will be able to continue their education and achieve whatever they want.”
Lebanon is one country that has made great efforts to send Syrian refugee children to school. Both Lama and her younger brother are enrolled in one of those schools.
Lama is 10-years-old. Most children by the age 10 will display developmental benchmarks in their cognitive development such as reading books with chapters, knowing the names of the months and year sequentially, cam write in a consistent style of their native language, understand basic addition and subtraction, and begin developing skills in multiplication, division, and fractions. There are also benchmarks for every age in the areas of emotional and social development, language, physical growth, and sensory and motor skills.
Lama’s education, at best, was interrupted while living among bombings, hunger, lack of shelter, stress, trauma, and all of the fallout that comes with living in poverty in a war-torn region. Before fleeing to Lebanon, she also missed an entire year of schooling. Lama and her family live just a few kilometers from their homeland, a reality that, no doubt. triggers memories of fear and stress daily.
The problem is immense.
According to new data (2016) from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), about 263 million children are out of school worldwide. To put that into perspective, that number equals approximately the same as 25 percent of the entire population of Europe. Broken down, there is 61 million primary school age children, 60 million of the youngest of secondary school age, and 142 million of the oldest of secondary age children. The latter was included in the overall statistics for the first time.
Globally, 16.1 million refugees exist today…
Globally, 16.1 million refugees exist today under the UNHCR mandate. Half of them are children, and six million are school-age, including both primary and secondary school ages. A refugee spends an average of twenty years in exile, more years than an entire childhood.
Imagine yourself as a ten-year-old refugee and where you are in your growth and development. Your developmental years are equal in all human beings. Any part of a child’s development may be influenced by their environment, but as a species, they hold no ties to your race, religion, politics, wealth, or social status.
All milestones in the stages of child development are guidelines. Children develop at different rates in general, but the identified milestones paint a median picture of where the vast majority of children are at and what they are capable of at any specific age, regardless of where they live on earth. These are benchmarks educators use to teach children in a way that intentionally matches their developmental needs and abilities.
High hopes for the future
Lebanon institutes “double-shift schools” for refugees.
Hope For Child Refugees In Lebanon: 202,259 of the 488,832 school-age Syrian refugees (41%) in Lebanon are enrolled in school as of February 2017. Lebanon instituted “double-shift schools,” to accommodate local and refugee children being able to go to school at different times.
Lebanon is one of many countries who have opened their arms to help educate children while they are still developing. Without the help of countries like Lebanon, children lose ground quickly and fall easily into an “at-risk” category. Children labeled as such are at risk of higher poverty rates, shorter life spans, increased chances of addiction, and higher crime rates. Despite these obstacles, there are efforts that offer hope.
Turkey removes barriers to education for refugees.
Hope For Child Refugees In Turkey: Theirworld, a global children’s charity committed to giving the most vulnerable children and young people a brighter future in their world, created a pilot project in Turkey that helps refugees with cost-effective ways to counteract the cultural, language, and economic barriers that keep Syrian refugees from getting an education.
Jordan increases refugee education enrollment by 15%.
Hope For Child Refugees In Jordan: The Ministry of Education in Jordan enrolled approximately 167,000 Syrian child refugees informal education in the 2016-2017 school year. That’s a 15% increase from last year. Also, Jordan opened 100 additional schools and now offer 200 double-shift schools.
Egypt promises access to college for refugees who complete their secondary school education.
Hope For Child Refugees In Egypt: Over 37,000 Syrian students enrolled in public schools in Egypt this year. 7,000 students enrolled in Syrian community schools by October of last year. Egyptian community schools offer informal or remedial classes. According to Egypt’s 2017-18 Regional Refugee Resilience Plan, “Syrian refugee boys, girls, and youth will continue to receive education grants upon enrollment and proof of regular attendance. The grant will contribute to school fees, uniforms, books, stationary and transportation to facilitate their learning.” Any and all Syrians who obtain their secondary school certificates will be eligible for enrollment to Egyptian universities along with local students.
Iraq offers new technology to refugees for interactive and self-learning.
Hope For Child Refugees In Iraq: The 2017-18 Regional Refugee Resilience Plan for Iraq references a serious lack of space and teachers in schools that are already overcrowded. The new plan is taking a more innovative approach utilizing technology for interactive and self-learning modules. The plan also includes a plan for mobile school units that are driven to remote areas daily.
World Refugee Day is a holiday we would like to see disappear, and what better reason could we erase this dark shadow of humanity from existence than for little girls like Lama?
Until that day comes, we will take that day to honor the courage, strength, and determination of men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their homeland.
We will not ignore, but rather recognize the contributions refugees have made to their new communities. We will share their stories to remind us of who we are, as a people – different yet all the same.
That is what connects us, and it’s the validation of humanity itself that acknowledges the courage, mettle, and pure determination of our fellow brothers and sisters, and the fears refugees face daily in living for an unknown future.