Sunday, November 1, 2015

Syrian refugee crisis puts strain on Lebanon

By: Abbey Peyton
Edited by: Jaelynn Grisso

The education system in Lebanon has been greatly affected by the influx of over two million Syrian refugees. Though resources being provided by the UN have been reduced in recent months, the country is doing what it can to provide education to those Syrian children and to maintain a sense of normalcy for Lebanese students. Education is now being provided up through the collegiate level for these Syrian migrants.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Syrian children have missed generally one to two years of schooling. With being behind already putting an immense amount of stress on Syrian students, the schools in Lebanon teach in English and French and Syrian children only speak Arabic. More stress is added because classes in Lebanon had been generally comprised of 20 students and now class sizes have almost doubled with 35-40 students per teacher. This takes attention away from both the Syrian students and the Lebanese students, placing additional stress on both students.

Increased population from Syrian migrants poses problems to
Lebanon's education system. (via Now.)
Problems with supporting migrants
According to Eva Bedran, a high school teacher teaching a geography class in a public school in Batroun, there are not many Syrian students in high schools due to the aforementioned reasons.

As for younger students, "Students (in case they can afford the tuition) are placed in classes lower than theirs... At the same time they affect the learning experience of Lebanese students since their educational level is much lower than their classmates. This affects also the teachers, making it harder for them to teach a heterogeneous class. I bet that Syrian students do suffer from some discrimination and bullying at the schools, especially with their poor understanding while lacking the French language skills."

Marya Sadek, Bedran's daughter who is studying at the Lebanese American University, commented on the efforts of the Lebanese government.

"The Lebanese government is trying to help Syrian refugees get into schools by asking for international funds in order to: Cover the tuition of the refugees, afford to get the teachers for extra shifts on afternoons for private classes for Syrian refugees, and to increase the capacity of public schools in order to assimilate the growth in the number of students," said Sadek.

Since the Syrian refugees have started moving into Germany, the UN has been low on money and therefore unable to provide as much as was initially provided to Lebanon, about 50% less. These funds were used to fund Syrian education through the Lebanese education system, as well as housing, food and water, and medical and psychological services.

"Not all Syrians are getting to go to schools in Lebanon because of the overload of students and/or not being able to pay tuition," says Miraluna Matar, a Lebanese student studying at Ohio University. "They just go walk on the roads and highways between cars and beg for money or sell stuff while people are stuck in traffic."

Additionally, Matar says that the "crime rate increased since most of the refugees as I said are poor and don't have jobs so they are doing anything that would help them get money either legally or illegally to be able to live better. The number of Lebanese people who walk on streets went down because of the robberies, kidnapping, and killing that has been happening."

For Matar, this hits close to home.
"To give an example, all of the people in my town including me and my siblings used to go on night walks on the streets but, now, parents are letting their children do it anymore because it is scary with the extremely huge amount of foreigners that came to our country," says Matar.

The economy as a whole has been heavily affected by the influx of Syrian migrants.
The increase in population in Lebanon often leads to
temporary housing for migrants. (via UNHCR.)
"The economy got better and worse at the same time, better because refugees are spending money in stores and on other services, worse because the amount of tourists wanting to visit Lebanon went down a lot," says Matar. "Note that most of Lebanon's income comes from the tourism sector of the economy."

The refugees' stories
The refugees' travels in general have been stressful as well. Many stories filter through the media everyday about the many hardships they have faced while traveling to a safer place.

Mhd Badawi, a Lebanese civilian, shared a story he saw on Facebook posted by a friend who lives in his village in Lebanon about a Syrian refugee.

"The Syrian man traveled to Turkey with his family to find a solution for his bad situation. He decided to go to Europe through the sea with his wife and children. He paid more than 5000 to go to Germany, but while they were on their way to Europe a wave hit their ship and it turned upside down.

He went to pull up his first child, but he was already dead. So he started searching for his other children and his wife but he couldn't find them. He started to swim until he reached the Turkish shore. While he was sitting on the shore, he saw a wave of five corpses floating. When the wave corpses reached the shore, he found out it was his family."

Going into this influx of Syrian citizens, there was only 20 hours of electricity available to Lebanese citizens. Since the influx, that availability has been cut down to 16 hours. They have increased the population by 25% with one in four people in Lebanon being Syrian. According to Sam Aziz, a Lebanese-American citizen, this influx would be comparable to "150 million Mexican citizens immigrating into the United States."

According to the UN Refugee Agency's website, as of December of last year, 1,154,040 registered Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon. According to figures provided by a New York Times article released last month, the United States currently holds 70,000 refugees with an expectation of reaching 100,000 by the end of this year as the crisis persists.

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