‘This generation of Syrians may be lost if we don’t get help’

This article originally appeared in the Times Education Supplement

Elias Bou Saab, Lebanon’s new minister of education, does not mince his words. “Without more support, the Lebanese education system may collapse. It is that serious,” he says.

The population of the small Middle Eastern country, home to just over 4 million citizens, has swollen by more than a quarter over the past three years. As Syria’s uprising has grown into a vicious civil war, more than a million people have fled across the border into Lebanon. This influx has driven the country’s public education system to the brink. Continue reading “‘This generation of Syrians may be lost if we don’t get help’”

‘These kids have nothing. They come here to forget’

This article was originally featured in The Times Education Supplement

The clouds in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region may be darkening as the winter storms set in, but Ahmed Saab shows few signs of negativity.

Gesticulating widely, he swings open a door to a room full of smiling children, who promptly stand to greet their headteacher. “These are the second years,” he says, eliciting a sharp communal rebuke. “Sorry, third years,” he laughs.

The leader of the informally named Syrian School of Baalbek has a new spring in his step. Only a few months ago, he had been resigned to losing the institution he founded and that for a year had provided 200 refugee children with their only education. Now an innovative campaign – which crowdsourced the school’s first proper funding – has given him and his students fresh hope.

The story goes back 18 months to when Mr Saab, a newly arrived refugee who had been a headteacher in the central Syrian city of Homs, first noticed dozens of aimless young Syrian refugees on Baalbek’s streets. He started to ask the children why they were not in school.

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