SYRIAN REFUGEES AND THE
CHALLENGES OF DISTANCE LEARNING
The Syria crisis has had a profound impact on the whole of the Middle East but, as a host nation for about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has felt it keenly. Yet, the overcoming faith of the Lebanese church is one of the brightest sparks of hope in the midst of the ongoing crisis. Tearfund’s partner in Lebanon, MERATH, has many inspiring stories of how thousands of Syrian refugees are turning to the church for help.
‘God is doing an incredible work through his people. Churches are expressing their faith through love – welcoming strangers, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, protecting and educating children and comforting the grief stricken.’
~MERATH representative Dr Alia Abboud speaking to Irish churches September 2019.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic took hold in Lebanon, Tearfund Ireland was supporting the work of MERATH in providing education opportunities to Syrian refugee children living in makeshift accommodation in Lebanon. Using a basic literacy and numeracy curriculum and employing Syrian teachers as much as possible, the goal of the project was to provide an education alternative for Syrian children who otherwise would not be able to attend school.
However, the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown forced MERATH to completely rethink how they could continue to progress the studies of their young Syrian students. For students with no access to computers and tablets and limited access to mobile phones the challenges of distance learning are enormous. Our partners addressed this by donating phones or paying for the families’ internet connection and adapting the education material they sent to ensure access for as many children as possible.
Najwa using a mobile phone to teach one of her children. Photo credit: Tahaddi Lebanon
The results were very encouraging, both children and parents took distance learning very seriously, and some families reported that it provided them with a sense of normalcy and helped them to remain “sane” in the middle of the crisis.
Najwa, a mother of two children participating in MERATH’S education programme said:
“With the lockdown, the education centre had to close and my children were very affected and emotional about it. It was a difficult transition, but I was with them the whole time. Helping them in their studies was very beneficial for me since I only studied till the third grade in Syria. I still remembered certain things and learned even more by attending the online program with my children. For example, I learned how to read and write in English."
*Cover photo: Najwa’s children doing their homework. Photo credit: Tahaddi Lebanon