In two of Lebanon's refugee camps, where residents have grown accustomed to the sounds of violence and despair, there is a new and welcome noise: the giggles of children in a newly renovated preschool.
Anera’s renovations of two kindergartens in Burj El Barajneh and Ein El Helweh camps were made possible through a grant from UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) for early childhood education and emergency response for refugees from Syria. The preschools, already overcrowded before the influx of refugees, are now hosts to a large number of Palestinian refugee children from Syria. Both schools were in dire need of repairs and upgrades to provide a safe environment for the children and help them cope with the new arrivals.
As the Syrian refugee crisis ends its third year, the impact of the refugee influx has put serious strains on early childhood development programs in the refugee camps. Most schools are privately run and lack sufficient funding to respond to the refugee crisis, which has dramatically increased the number of school-age children in the camps.
Applying Early Childhood Development Quality Standards
Following Anera’s quality standards, the preschool renovations include security features and other measures to promote good hygiene, interactive learning and access to safe, quality education. “The windows and roofs have been sealed against bad weather. Electricity has been upgraded, classrooms painted, and bathrooms were renovated to be more child-sized and sanitary. We also updated playgrounds and installed new equipment to make the preschools a safer environment for children, ” explains Nadine Abdallah, Anera public health educator. “The schools were also equipped with toys, furniture and books. These items were chosen carefully by education specialists to promote innovative and interactive learning methodologies.”
In the community that we serve, with all the disruptions in their lives, their time at preschool can give them some sense of normalcy.
“There’s increasing evidence that refugee children gain a lot from going to preschool,” says Zeinat Farhoud, educator at the newly renovated Najdeh Preschool in Ein El Helweh Camp in southern Lebanon. “Besides being exposed to numbers and letters, they also learn to socialize, to get along with other children, to share and engage with those around them. In the community that we serve, with all the disruptions in their lives, their time at preschool can give them some sense of normalcy. This is especially true of the children who have fled the violence in Syria.”
Parents also welcome the new and exciting materials that are inspiring the teachers and engaging their children’s senses. “They teach our children through storytelling and games, which make learning fun,” says Intisar, mother of one preschooler. She smiles with pride, “My child was capable of writing his name and all the letters of the Arabic alphabet at age four!”
Before: Ein El Hilweh classroom
After: Ein El Hilweh classroom
These newly renovated preschools offer early childhood education for hundreds of children from two Lebanon camps, 30% of whom are refugees from Syria (both Palestinian and Syrian).