Hope for Refugee Children Through Education

Jesuit Refugee Service

Lebanon has welcomed about 1.5 million Syrian refugees since civil war erupted in neighboring Syria in 2011, accounting for about a quarter of Lebanon’s current population. But the influx of an estimated 502,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children has stretched the host country’s public schools to the limits.

Even when Syrian refugee children are accepted into Syrian schools they often find it difficult to assimilate, as they face challenges such as language barriers, discrimination, bullying, social and economic issues, and unpredictable enrollment regulations.

So in response, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) offers extensive education and language training programs in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad—two areas in Lebanon with high concentrations of Syrian refugees—to help refugee children prepare for Lebanese public schools.

In 2015, more than 800 children were enrolled in JRS-classes in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad during the first half of the year—about double compared with the same time period in 2014. And despite the program’s progress, increasingly high demand for classes mean there is a waiting list of potential students eager to enroll.

All of the more than 170 JRS students in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad who took placement tests for the Lebanese school system during the first half of 2015 earned passing grades. But with classroom space tight, it’s uncertain how many children will have the opportunity to attend regular public schools.

Increasingly desperate living conditions of refugee families have created stressful home environments that threaten to undermine their children’s education, with some children dropping out of school so they can work to support their family. So JRS added social workers to its educational programs in 2015. Absentee and dropout rates since have dropped significantly.

In addition to education needs, JRS also routinely provides refugee families with food baskets, hygiene products and items to help them cope with winter, such as blankets, heaters, drapes and carpet. JRS students in Lebanon say they’re grateful for the opportunity to continue their studies but can’t wait to return one day to their home country.

Photo credit: Dominic Chavez / World Bank

Find out more about Jesuit Refugee Service at jrsusa.org.