• Chris Sowton

Blog: Teacher Training in Lebanon with Syrian Refugees

Tonight I was invited to the house of one of the English teachers I have been training this week. I’d like to give his name, to give his story the authenticity which it deserves, but to do so might be comprising for him, as Syrians are not allowed to be teachers in Lebanon. They are only legally allowed to work as farmers, builders and cleaners, even if they are teachers, doctors or water engineers, professions which in the Bekaa Valley are in all in strong demand.


Every day, for 8 months of the year, he teaches a double shift – in the morning and in the afternoon – at different schools. This is extremely common, considering both the high number of students who want to be taught, and the inadequate school space and number of teachers available. For teaching in excess of 40 classroom hours a week, he earns less than $1,000 per month. This does not include time for planning, marking or travelling to the often distant schools. For the other 4 months of the year, he has to make do. Last summer he worked on a construction site, during Ramadan, just to make ends meet as there were no funds to keep the schools open.


But he does not complain. This is what he wants to do. He believes, strongly, that education is the only way out of the situation which the children in his classes find themselves in. Despite his lingering hope that one day he will be able to return to Syria, to the mother, father, sisters and brothers who remain in Syria, his veneer of optimism is a thin one. I sense he does not think this is happening anytime soon. Despite regular contact through WhatsApp, he has not seen them since he came to Lebanon 3 years ago, having been called up to the army.


I write this, and share this, as human stories help to paint a picture which statistics, academic research and newspaper articles fail to convey, or which we too easily gloss over, and also because the horrors of what are taking place in Syria are too terrible to actually process. I write this because even given the appalling set of events that have resulted in my host reluctantly leaving his work and his family and his life in Syria, he has managed to carve out a meaningful life where he is positively impacting the lives of hundreds of children every week, and that is a truly remarkable thing.

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©2019 by Chris Sowton