ALTERNATIVE – LEBANON: Reem, 12

Artist: Monann De Jong

REEM FROM SYRIA, EDUCATED IN LEBANON, AGED 12

Reem lives with her mother, father, and sister in a small tent in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Reem loves to read and her mother was once a school teacher in Syria, but since they were forced to cross the border she has been unable to teach. In Lebanon Syrian refugees are not given refugee status, which means that while they live in refugee camps, catered for by UNHCR they are unable to work, attend school, or enjoy any of the freedoms of a normal life.

Reem has been living in this refugee camp for the past two years. She is 12 years old and has not been to school since war broke in her native city of Homs. Her days in the camp are often boring. She feels as though she is waiting, but she is not sure what for, since the war in Syria never seems to come to an end. The camp is far away from the nearest town and, since her family live in poverty, they cannot afford to pay for the bus to take Reem to school. Her family do not have visas or residency permits so they cannot work and are unlikely to want to leave the small confines of the refugee camp as they are scared that they might be arrested and taken to a detention centre if they are found without their papers. Not only this but the Lebanese curriculum is taught in French and English as well as Arabic, which would leave a child like Reem far behind as she only speaks Arabic.  

Despite all of these difficulties Reem has now found a new way to access education. SALAM LADC in partnership with Kids fur kids, ASODH, FAOSE, and Breteau foundation are bringing an education to children like Reem who cannot access education or play. They are doing this through their bus project which supports schools by providing additional educational tools and coordinating activities and health & social awareness training at the settlements. Their big school bus has state of the art technology, using tablets as well as books, arts and crafts material and audio- & video equipment to teach basic literacy and numeracy and also offer psychosocial support.

The bus drives to 11 designated schools in the Bekaa Valley and the 5 designated settlements. One of these settlements is Reem’s. Reem is so happy because her room is now filling up with books that she can borrow from the bus and return the next week when it comes. She has started to learn again, and is also catching up with the Lebanese curriculum.  

During national holiday festivities the bus has come to the village near her settlement to create activities for Syrian and Lebanese children at these festivities. On Eid al-Adha she played with a Lebanese girl who she never would have met otherwise. This integral integration into the community is making Reem and her family finally feel as though they are comfortable and accepted.

Reem is looking forward to all of the festivals coming up this year which will include Easter,  Mother’s Day and Ramadan.

This is a fictional story, but it is authored by advocates who  based on the real life experience.

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Artwork by Monann De Jong