September is back to school month around the United States for 50.7 million children who are buying backpacks and school supplies for the new year. As the long days of summer fade, you can feel the excitement of a new year and new opportunities as each student steps into the classroom to kick-off the new year.
Back to School Not a Universal Reality
This, unfortunately, reflects a reverse reality for millions of children around the world. They are desperate for education but have little opportunity and many barriers. The UN recently reported that 27 million children globally who are affected by conflict will not be attending school this year. Having fled their homes and everything they know, these children are also without the opportunity of education to help protect their childhood and shape their future.
It’s not OK!
Food for the Hungry is currently responding to both the Syrian and South Sudan refugee crises.
In Lebanon, Food for the Hungry is supporting non-formal education for Syrian refugee children through their local implementing partner, Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development. Through these programs, 1,200 otherwise out-of-school-children received education. This academic year, they hope to reach close to 1,500. In one of these education programs, children recently participated in an art activity geared to evaluate the impact of education in their lives. Students draw a picture of a child in school and out of school. Their descriptions of the children they drew reflect insightful reflections.
Insightful Reflections from Children
In School: “The child who is in school is happy because he is studying and learning new things like math, English and science. He is a good boy. His parents think he is clever. He is wearing school suits.”
Out of School: “This child doesn’t go to school. He is sad because he doesn’t attend school; he can’t see his friend; he sits and sleeps only, and cries. Parents say, ‘we will put you in school, but they don’t have any money.’”
In School: “The child in school is studying and doing homework. He is happy and his parents are proud of him.”
Out of School: “The child that is out of school has no friends, no one visits him. They think he is a bad boy. When his brother’s friends come, he sits alone. He wears black because parents only give clothes to his brother who goes to school.”
Children can communicate such powerful feelings through simple words and pictures.
Education Gives Joy
When on a home visit to a refugee family recently, I was there just before the two children, Nizar and Haya, started getting ready for the afternoon school shift. The children were suddenly so active and excited as they hurriedly put their pencils, paper and books in their little backpacks, with huge smiles on their faces. When I asked the mother what they were so excited about she said simply, “They get to go to school today.”
These children, in particular, discrimination of refugees kept these children from playing outside their house. Apart from the basic knowledge and life skills children gain through education, attending school gives refugee and displaced children a safe place to play and develop. It gives them joy and hope for the future. The routine gives them a sense of normalcy, a place to make friends and build important social skills, and decreases the risks that are common for vulnerable refugee children such as abuse, child labor, early marriage, exploitation, trafficking and radicalization.
Remember the 27 Million!
As the new school year begins, let us remember the 27 million children around the world who are desperate for the opportunity to go to school. It’s not OK!
In partnership with the Integral Alliance and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), Food for the Hungry supports local Lebanese churches responding to the Syrian crisis by providing non-formal education for out of school children. You can also take part in helping make this possible.
Learn and Pray: Want to learn more about the plight of refugees? Today, there are more refugees than at any other time in history. Download Food for the Hungry’s free ebook, More Than a Refugee, to learn more about the refugee crisis, how life as a refugee destroys children’s futures, and steps you can take to make a difference.
Support the work of FH’s implementing partner LSESD in Syria and Lebanon: To learn more and to help with this life-saving work go to fh.org/syria.
Support Children In Crisis: If you are currently a Child Sponsor through FH you can help children in crisis, like those in Lebanon and Syria, by contributing an additional $4 a month. This small amount can make a huge difference in supporting the basic needs of children in crisis.