Rehabilitation And Support For Early Childhood Education In Refugee Camps In Lebanon
Palestinian children in Lebanon suffer from multiple risk factors and disadvantages that impede their development. Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon form a distinct and disadvantaged sector, characterized not only by extreme poverty, but also by a mix of low status, limited opportunities, increased vulnerability, and social exclusion. High levels of stress and anxiety negatively affect their healthy growth and development.
Enrollment in preschool/kindergarten is an important stage in a child’s education: students who go from preschool to elementary school are more prepared for learning in a school environment and more likely to stay in school than students who have not. Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon enroll in elementary school at age 6. The two years of preschool/kindergarten prior to elementary school are non-compulsory. For the most part, preschool is available for Palestinian children through local NGOs, but these NGOs lack sufficient funding and support. They vary widely in quality and the 92 preschools currently in operation are only able to provide preschool education to 9,092 children, leaving about half of pre-school age Palestinian refugee children without access. Moreover, as a consequence to the limited funding and attention to this vital sector, more than half of the 92 preschools operating in the camps are in need of rebuilding, almost 80% need refurbishment of classrooms and/or playgrounds, and over 85% lack proper equipment for a truly child friendly environment.
Today, the situation has been aggravated with the mass influx of Syrian refugees from across the border, including around 60,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS). As the crisis drags on with no end in sight, the situation is become more and more concerning, especially as the existing structures—schools, health clinics, and social services—were already over-crowded and over-whelmed and are unable to accommodate the large influx of PRS. There were approximately 400,000 Palestinians prior to the crisis, and the addition of 15% of the population is overstretching the limited resources, creating rising tensions between the communities. Young PRS children have acute needs as the majority were exposed to violent experiences while in Syria and suffer from psychosocial distress. Sending them to preschool gives them a chance to laugh and play, socialize with children their age, escape their dreary, overcrowded surroundings – many living in tents or multi-family one room apartments, and try to regain a sense of normalcy.
In response to the emergency situation some local preschools have opened their doors to PRS children and have increased their class population by at least 40%.This is the case of two of ANERA’s partner organizations; the preschool of National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT) in Burj El Barajneh Camp (Beirut area), and the Kindergarten of Najdeh Association in Ein El Hilweh Camp (Sidon area).