THE BLOG
04/02/2016 07:37 GMT | Updated 04/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Education Is a Right for Every Child

It is very important for Syrian children to have an education. I don't see them as refugees. It is just a label that the society gave them. We are not looking into a dark future where people are divided into those who were refugees and those who were not. What they are now are children. Simply children. And all children have the right to learn and continue their education.

I have been teaching English at Mohammad Shamel Public School in Lebanon since 2007. I started with teaching younger children, aged 6 and 7, and now teach 10 to 14 year olds, who come from different backgrounds and cultures; and since 2011, many are from Syria.

In the five years since the start of the conflict much has changed in the way I teach. The crisis in Syria has led to over a million refugees entering Lebanon; our population here has grown by over a quarter. Over 50% of refugees in Lebanon are children. My country is small geographically, but is now shouldering one of the largest humanitarian burdens since World War Two.

Schools across the country have been running double shifts to help ensure that all children, regardless of where they are from get an education.

I arrive early to prepare and run through my lesson plans, ready for a long day of teaching. Classes start at 8am and run through til 1.45pm. Then we have an hour's break before the second shift of children start at 2.45.

Life at school is really busy now and it is a challenge to accommodate all the children and tend to their needs; with teachers running up and down our four story building all day long. After a morning teaching you'll find me huddling around the teachers' room with my colleagues, and yes we will be talking about the children. Our concerns are mostly about common problems with students who have been through so much, and ideas on how best to approach them.

Most teachers, no matter where they are from, will speak of the challenges they face in the classroom. Many of their challenges will be the same as mine, however for me, supporting children overcome two significant barriers to learning - namely language and trauma - have become more acute since the start of the conflict.

Lessons here in Lebanon are taught in English or French, with Arabic taught as a language. For Syrian children this makes learning difficult, as they are used to all lessons being taught in Arabic. The lack of English means they can fall behind and need extra support to keep up with their Lebanese classmates.

Falling behind in school is often compounded by the emotional roller coaster of anger, worry, sadness and frustration that comes from fleeing your home in order to escape violence. But despite these barriers, all are eager to learn, and recognise the semblance of normality and stability a school day brings, not just for them, but their parents too.

But not all teachers are equipped to handle children who are so emotionally scarred by what they have been through. We need more help. A lot of Syrians and Lebanese are without work, and this impacts on the children. I think psychological help for more children and parents is needed to cope. I've attended a workshop on supporting students, but it is not enough.

At the end of the day it is the children who matter the most. For them it's the hope that education brings a better life.

One of my students, Fatima is from Syria. She came to Lebanon when she was in the third grade, now in grade 6, she has been learning English now for three years and is still eager to learn. She is confident speaking English, where once she wasn't and is progressing well in class. One day she wants to be a doctor so she can help injured people.

You see, the war did not change Fatima's desire to learn, it only emboldened it in my opinion. It seems to have made her more determined to succeed, despite all odds.

It is very important for Syrian children to have an education. I don't see them as refugees. It is just a label that the society gave them. We are not looking into a dark future where people are divided into those who were refugees and those who were not. What they are now are children. Simply children. And all children have the right to learn and continue their education.

For the world leaders meeting today, I want to remind them that education is a right for every child. It is the key for cohesive and inclusive societies and when the Syrian children I teach today return to their homeland, they will be ready to rebuild it, thanks to the education we give them today.

Myassar Itani, is a primary school teacher from Lebanon. She is part of a global network of teachers that participate in Connecting Classrooms, an initiative co-funded by the British Council which links up schools around the world