Dubai: One of the biggest casualties of conflict zones across the world are the children missing out on school due to the violence.
Dubai Cares has stepped in to address this issue in the region, helping 4,300 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon get back to taking classes.
Across Bekaa and Akkar in Lebanon, the Dubai-based charity has teamed up with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to develop a programme that is helping Syrian refugee children learn better.
Among these refugee kids are siblings Maha and Abdul Aziz, struggling in the Lebanese public school system with math, Arabic and a second language: either French or English.
Maha never had the chance to go to school in Raqqa, Syria, where Daesh militants overtook the city and cancelled all classes, just as the nine-year-old was preparing to start first grade. She and her 10-year-old brother Abdul Aziz remained out of school for two years because of the war.
Their mother Fida refused to send her children to school under Daesh rule, as students were exposed to a brutal curriculum which incorporated descriptions of shootings and beheadings. She wanted to escape, but the city was under siege and no one was allowed out.
“They were afraid of the sounds of gunfire and bombings. I didn’t allow them to leave the house; they were so depressed at home,” Fida recalls.
“But I didn’t want them witnessing what was happening outside. I continued to reassure them it will be alright and would end soon.”
As life under Daesh continued to become unbearable, Fida managed a risky and tortuous escape from Raqqa to Damascus and then all the way to Lebanon, walking almost half of the journey.
“I can’t tell you how we survived; we just did and I’m thankful every single day,” Fida says.
Once the children were reunited with their father, the children were enrolled in the second-shift of the Lebanese public school system.
This shift is available to thousands of Syrian children where they are taught Arabic, English, math, science, civil society and geography.
But, haunted by the painful memories of war back home, the children initially struggled to cope up and were even bullied as they lagged behind in the classes.
However, as the IRC intervened through the Dubai Cares funded remedial support programme, the children have made a remarkable transformation, graduating as the top two students of their class.
Just as it has helped hundreds of Syrian children succeed in Lebanese public schools, the remedial programme helped Maha and Abdul Aziz improve their reading and writing skills and provided them with a new sense of confidence.