It is the beginning of the week and today, like last Monday and the Monday before that, Fatima and her younger brother Ibrahim are eagerly waiting for the familiar car to arrive.
With the restrictions enforced by Covid-19, the SAWA school we support in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon has been temporarily closed. As a result, staff have been driving to all the pupils at their informal settlements to distribute weekly homework. But Ibrahim and Fatima don’t go to school – they make up 58% of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who remain out of education. A figure that has only exacerbated as a result of coronavirus.
Almost ten years ago now, Fatima and her parents fled their home in Aleppo and the war in Syria. Ibrahim and his two younger siblings were born in Lebanon and the family is now forced to call the camp in Bar Elias, Bekaa their home. Lebanon’s economic crisis and the recent hardships brought about by the pandemic are weighing heavily on the family. Their father is illiterate, and their mother is the sole breadwinner, working long days in the agricultural sector to support the household. The parents have very little additional support. Although none of this seems to have deterred Ibrahim and Fatima.
The family’s settlement is one of many where SAWA’s students reside, and Ibrahim and Fatima have been curiously observing the distribution of schoolwork handouts since it began in May. Eventually, Ibrahim was brave enough to ask one week if he could have a copy of the papers that were given to the students. SAWA’s supervisor was pleasantly surprised in the weeks that followed – every time he passed by the settlement, Ibrahim, by his own volition, had studiously completed the homework with the help of his sister and was patiently waiting for the next one.
During these months in lockdown, the siblings have become well acquainted with the staff at SAWA. Their work is being corrected by the teachers, who are reporting good progress and are impressed by their performance and initiative. Now both are enrolled at the school and will be continuing with their education. Fatima enthusiastically expressed, “I want to become a teacher like you because you taught us a lot.”
Ibrahim and Fatima’s story is a wonderful example of this work; full of hope and determination, but it also highlights the plight of many others in the same situation who are not so lucky. The lack of funding for the education of children like Ibrahim and Fatima leaves many behind, despite the continuous efforts of organisations like SAWA. Ibrahim’s enthusiasm is a shining example that shows what is possible when the chance arises. All too often the opportunity simply isn’t there. We are so proud to work with SAWA to provide education to Syrians in Lebanon and will do everything we can to make sure that more children like Ibrahim and Fatima don’t miss out.