We thought that we are invincibles, we thought that we would never die, but there is nothing more sure in life than the fact that it will end one day. Nor technology, neither health care or living beyond possibilities can avoid the end of our life at one point.
Unfortunately there are many countries where this moment is earlier than in other. Countries that suffer wars, hunger or hygenic situations put their population in danger every day, there is a Covid-19 situation all the time, even much worse than that. One of those countries is Syria.
We talk today with the founder of ZELTSCHULE, an ambitious project to lecture refugee children from Syria, the wonderful Jacqueline Flory, mother herself. In her world Covid-19 is just another problem.
How many people are currently in the camp?
Around 15,000 people live in our camps in Lebanon, about half of them are children. 4,500 children visit our tent schools every day.
What is the current situation on site?
Winter was difficult, wet and cold. Not all living tents have stoves and during the night the temperatures often dropped below zero. Our top priority was therefore the supply of winter clothing, blankets, firewood. Spring is slowly coming and we no longer have to worry about temperatures.
How does coronavirus change your work?
We are ALWAYS afraid of viral infections, even Corona. An influenza or measles case could also be a disaster in a camp, since the hygienic options are often limited and far too many people live together in the camps in a confined space. Corona has now forced us to close our schools for a few weeks for the first time in 4 years. Since we know how important school is to children, we hope that we can return to class in a few weeks.
Is there any sign of the peace agreement?
We have seen many peace agreements come and go. Most have rested for a few days or weeks at most, after which the bombing usually continued with greater force than before. The hope that this time it could be a permanent peace is not great among the population.
What is the local economic situation like?
In Lebanon, the (long overdue and advocated by us) revolution made our work much more difficult. Transfers are no longer possible to or from Lebanon, the banking system has completely collapsed. Certain food and especially medicines are becoming scarce, which makes it difficult to provide people in our camps.
What does everyday life look like?
The everyday life of children is dominated by their schooling, homework, and social exchange. The everyday life of adults is often very monotonous. The adult Syrian refugees are banned from working, so the prevailing feeling is uselessness, of being lost, without any meaningful task.
Corona has not drastically changed everyday life at the camp, because “social distancing” has been practiced in the camps for nine years (by force): the camps are usually not left because the refugees on the street could be controlled or hostile. People are afraid of arrests or deportation and therefore stay in the camps.
How do you finance the school?
Our work is financed exclusively through donations.
How long are the children usually in school?
School attendance in Syria and Lebanon is compulsory from the age of 5 to 14, we cover this compulsory education. Each child is taught 4 hours a day.
Does it offer any type of qualifications?
We built our first school four years ago, and we now have 13 schools in Lebanon. We teach according to the Syrian curriculum. Our students complete an “Alternative Education” degree that is recognized for secondary schools.
How many people work in the school?
27 teachers work voluntarily in our 13 tent schools in Lebanon.
What are the biggest challenges?
The hardest thing is actually to make people aware of the horrific situation again and again, not to allow the topic to be forgotten or simply not to arouse interest because the conflict has been going on for almost a decade. Indifference means that we no longer receive donations and no donations mean that we have to close schools.
When will there finally be peace in Syria?
I actually believe that we are not that far from a “peace” that is defined as no more bombing in Syria. But my fear is that we will be satisfied with this peace. The people in our camps deserve much more than peace. They courageously and peacefully took to the streets against a dictatorial regime – and for that they were attacked for 9 years with everything that modern warfare has to offer. After that, you can’t just move on to the agenda. Syria is ruled by a mass murderer, real peace can only prevail after there has been a regime change.
How can Germany help? Europe?
Above all, Europe could help by remembering that the best way to keep refugees away from Europe’s external borders is not tear gas, but fighting the causes of flight. Would Europe finally have money for the neighboring countries of Syria (namely for the NGOs operating there?
interviewed by Stefanie Claudia Müller