By Abir Khoder
“I want you to be persons of the uttama category. You must always think of the goal. Always look to your ideal. By spiritual ideation you can get inspiration to adhere to your principles.” – Shrii P. R. Sarkar
On September 19th, 2015, we started our Community School for Syrian Refugees in Upper Chouf – Mount Lebanon. Within one month, through outreaching in the remote villages in the Upper Chouf, we got more than 100 children enrolled who were living in bad situations far away from any kind of minimum standards of living. The best choice available for boys was working in a gas station and for girls, waiting for a husband at the age of 12. The few public schools in the area were full due to certain regulations from the Ministry of Education. AMURT/NHE’s Community School came at the right time to save these children.
The Community School consists of two classes for teaching a Basic Literacy and Numeracy program BLN (61 children), two KG3 classes (67 children) and three sections of grade 1 (88 children). It is registered with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and High Education (MEHE) and will get a certificate at the end of the school year. Most of our 216 students will be registered next year in public schools.
Teachers are well educated and are receiving training from Didi Anandarama in Yoga for Children and Neohumanist Education, among other educational trainings. Recently, Ole Brekke gave AMURT’s staff a ten-hour workshop on Theatre in Education (TIE).
The goal of our Community School is to provide psycho-social support for these traumatized Syrian children, who have suffered so much in the war, while giving them a good education. These 216 children had no chance to enter any public school this year, so AMURT has provided a clean environment to grow and perform, while protecting them from early marriage, child labor, physical and verbal abuse and many other problems they may face in society.
Concern for the dignity of these children and their rights of being equal with any Lebanese child made us work so hard and, with Grace, our students have access to the National Library in Chouf (Youth and Children Library) where they can borrow any book or story for free. Also, we had a special day prepared for our children where the principal of the Youth and Children Library, Madam May Okalii, read them a story about protecting trees. Then the children expressed their feelings through their drawings. After the visit, the principal and the workers in the library expressed surprise at the smartness, politeness and very good behavior of our students.
This photo shows the motivating certificates children received after passing a dictation competition of 50 words in Arabic and English Language. Many of these children had been out of school for two to three years.
In addition to that, we recently had a performance party for our students where 40 children graduated from the BLN program. They are still in the school, either in KG3 or Grade one (the high achievers).
Also, the children prepared their mother’s gifts from recycled materials. Here is a photo of their lovely exhibition.
Didi Anandarama, visits regularly and offers training. She has this to say:
The teachers, assistants, school staff and director have developed a close family feeling with each other. The teachers have grown in their confidence working with these children who have troubled backgrounds. The children demonstrate good academic achievements, joy of learning and have improved very much in their social-emotional well being. With lots of work and hard efforts this project is quite excellent and exemplary.