“It’s always been my dream to be a preschool teacher and now I am,” said Zeina Agha, a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon.
Now she can help support her family of six, that had been relying only on her father’s modest income as a driver.
Her dream came true after she won an ANERA scholarship to become certified in preschool teaching. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee youth like Zeina have limited options when it comes to work and education. Most only get a basic education, and about 70 percent graduate from high school. Some try to enroll in vocational training programs when they get the chance.
Creating Options for All Students
For youth with poor academic records who don’t do well on official government exams, their options are to drop out of school altogether or enroll in vocational training. There are very few vocational training centers in Lebanon and waiting lists are generally long. So many youth who want to go that route never get the chance. For these young Palestinians, the ANERA scholarships to the Abdel Hadi Debs Institute in Beirut are a life-saving opportunity to remain in school and on track in pursuing a better life.
“Upon the inauguration of the program, we were very impressed by the performance of the students,” said Mr. Adel Damaj, director of the Institute. Damaj notes that some students made it to honor lists and were ranked in top positions at the Lebanese national level. Marwa Dirawi is one of those students. She’s an ANERA scholarship recipient who ranked second in Lebanese national exams in 2015.
This academic year, a total of 15 Palestinian youth, aged 15-18, are getting scholarships to pursue their studies. The students come from the four main refugee camps in the Beirut metro area: Sabra, Shatila, Burj El Barajneh and Mar Elias. In the outreach and candidate selection process, ANERA partnered with Beit Atfal Assamoud, a local organization in the Palestinian camps.
“Now that I’m ranked first in my class,” added Fatima, “my parents approve!”
The selection of scholarship recipients is based on two criteria: an entrance placement exam and personal interviews. “ANERA coordinates with the Abdel Hadi Debs Institute to guide students to the specialties that play to each person’s strengths,” explained Nisrine Makkouk, ANERA’s education program manager in Lebanon.
“My parents wanted me to continue in the general education system like my older siblings, but technical education was always appealing to me,” explained Fatima Shouni, a student pursuing a degree in preschool education. “Now that I’m ranked first in my class,” added Fatima, “my parents approve!”
In addition to covering tuition, ANERA also follows up with both the students and the institute. Regular parent-student discussion sessions are organized to share challenges and collaborate on solutions. ANERA supports students so they graduate as well-rounded, capable young adults ready to succeed in life.
ANERA also supplements the three-year program with extracurricular activities that build skills like communication and leadership. With tools like these, Palestinian youth have what it takes to shine in the workplace and within their communities.