|Towards Responsive Schools Supporting Better Schooling for Disadvantaged Children - Education research paper No. 38 (DFID, 2000, 270 p.)|
|SECTION III. CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT|
analysis: Julia Gilkes, Alia Shan'a, Qassam Said, Frances Moore
writing/editing: Emma Cain
What are the problems for children?
The Palestinians in Lebanon
During the Arab-Israeli war which culminated in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, some 725,000 Palestinian Arabs fled to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, The West Bank and Gaza Strip.1 The refugees were effectively prevented from returning to their homes by the Jewish Israeli authorities, despite the affirmation by the United Nations General Assembly of their inviolable right to return. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees were classified as neither foreigners nor nationals and were registered in refugee camps which are still administered by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East).
Box 1: Children's voices from the camps
'My only hope in life is to visit my homeland, Palestine, even if only once to breathe in its scent and keep it in my memory so I shall never forget it'
Maysa Salloum, aged 13
'My life in exile is hard. I have no nationality. I would like to go back to my country, to feel its warmth and affection'
Shahnaz, aged 14
'It is my right to live in safety. They made us get used to being refugees.'
Milad Abou Kharroub, aged 17
Fifty years on, over 356,000 refugees remain in Lebanon, representing over 11% of the total population of Lebanon, with over 194,000 living in 12 refugee camps, and over 162,000 living outside the camps. They continue to experience the usual economic and social hardships associated with living in refugee camps, exacerbated by severe travel and employment restrictions. In addition, Palestinian refugees have suffered directly from the ongoing conflicts in the region. These have included Israeli attacks and invasions, the Lebanese civil war, and factional in-fighting within the Palestinian community. There is deeply entrenched mistrust for the Palestinian refugees on the part of the host country which is struggling to rebuild its communities, torn apart by decades of civil war and still in conflict.
The refugee community in Lebanon clings to a fierce sense of national identity and claims the right to return to their homes in Palestine, while the Lebanese government remains reluctant to extend Lebanese citizenship to Palestinians. The Palestinian-Israeli peace process which has been underway since 1993, has largely ignored the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and there is a sense that they have been abandoned by the Palestinian political leaders in the newly autonomous West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Lebanon now find themselves in limbo: isolated, stateless and with no sense of how, when or by whom their situation may be resolved.
Box 2: Key events
Creation of Israel, displacement of 725,000 Palestian refugees, 125,600 to Lebanon
UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) established to provide emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees
War. West Bank and Gaza Strip become Occupied Territories and more Palestinians become refugees in neighbouring Arab countries
1975 - 91
Lebanese Civil War
War. Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Massacrres in Palestinian refugee camps
1986 - 7
The camp wars between Lebanese and Palestinian militias. Displacement and massacres - more widows and orphans
The Gulf War: expulsion of Palestinians from Gulf States back into the camps in Lebanon. Unemployment and reduction in funding from Arab States
Madrid and Oslo Peace Accord
Establishment of Palestinian National Authority and autonomy in West bank and Gaza Strip. Unclear status for Palestinians in Lebanon and reduction of PLO services in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon
Marginalisation of Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries. New re-entry visa restrictions for Palestinians to return to Lebanon
Israeli attacks in South Lebanon. Displacement form villages. Qana massacre: air attack on UN Peace keeping base killing and wounding sheltering women and children
Wye River peace accords; situation and future of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon remains unresolved
Impact of conflict on Palestinian children
As with most conflict situations, it is children who are most vulnerable to hardship and insecurity. In the case of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the long term nature of the conflict has meant that successive generations of children have suffered the effects of displacement and war, growing up in siege conditions with little hope of return to a homeland which is no longer on the international map.
Direct impact of violence on children:
· physical damage as a result of the fighting
· emotional damage as a result of both external attack, factional fighting and political violence in the camps
· loss of parents or relatives
· sudden displacement or the loss of the family home
· family breakdown
· limited access to and disruption of basic services, including health and education
· constant threat of external attack or renewed conflict
· refugee camps overcrowded, leaving no safe place for children to play
Indirect impact on children - economic situation of families:
· economic stagnation and inflation in Lebanon due to the civil war
· withdrawal of PLO economic support to camps in Lebanon
· lack of employment opportunities compounded by travel restrictions and restrictions on the kind of jobs open to Palestinians in Lebanon
· reduction in remittances to camp families
· increase in child labour to supplement the family income and increase in girls domestic duties as women seek paid work opportunities
· reduced income opportunities and practical child care options for female headed-households
Impact on children's individual development:
In addition to these practical problems, children grow up in a climate of relentless uncertainty and fear due not only to conflict itself, but also to tensions within the family as insecurity, frustration and economic pressures take their toll. The very fact of being born into exile, and the experience of growing up stateless as a second-class citizen in Lebanon and within a community which is isolated politically, socially and physically, challenges the child's sense of identity and self-esteem.
'Individual children react in different ways including withdrawal symptoms, aggression, guilt feelings and depression. Bed wetting, poor appetites, broken sleep patterns, nightmares and clinging to carers for security affect the children's normal development and challenge adults' abilities to reassure and deal consistently with the emotional demands of their children. Yet many children show remarkable resilience even to the long term effects.' Julia Gilkes, Save the Children Middle East Early Childhood Development Advisor
All formal primary and secondary education for Palestinian refugees in the camps in Lebanon is provided by UNRWA, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East:
UNRWA's role in the region:
· UNRWA has been providing education, health, relief and social services to registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1950
· the mandate of the agency is based on a resolution adopted by the UN in 1949 and has been renewed repeatedly pending a solution to the Palestinian question
· the current, seventeenth mandate extends to 30 June 1999
· in May 1996 UNRWA headquarters were relocated from Vienna to Gaza
· UNRWA's largest programme is education, taking 47% of the total budget in 1997
UNRWA's education programme in Lebanon:
· UNRWA schools in Lebanon follow the Lebanese curriculum and use a traditional, formal academic approach, with little or no provision made for sport, physical exercise, creative, cultural or self expressive activities.
· While UNRWA's education programme in Lebanon is headed by international staff, all teachers in UNRWA schools are from the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon.
· 37, 969 pupils are enrolled in 72 UNRWA elementary/preparatory schools and in 1 secondary school, representing approximately 50% of all Palestinian children of school age registered with UNRWA in Lebanon
· classes are large (50 - 60 pupils in each class)
· almost 50% of pupils are girls
UNRWA is mandated to provide education for all Palestinian refugee children from the age of 6, but the reality is that existing school provision does not reach the whole population. Even where children have access to schools, resources are scarce, classes are overcrowded and teachers are underpaid and demoralised. Although primary school was made compulsory in 1991, coverage of schools is still inadequate. In an attempt to respond to this, many UNRWA schools now operate a shift system, providing classes in the morning and afternoon. In addition to lack of resources, a major reason for children's absence from school are the pressing economic needs which oblige many children to work in order to supplement the family income, or take responsibility for domestic tasks including child care while mothers are working:
'My classmate had to leave school to work in a mechanics workshop to help his family earn enough to live' Maysa Salloum, aged 13
Teachers in UNRWA schools operate under a great deal of pressure, with limited resources, low pay and large classes (up to 50 or 60 children in one class) which prevent teachers from building one to one relationships with individual pupils. There is even less contact with parents who are not encouraged to be involved in school activities: children are 'handed over' to the school and expected to come home 'educated.' Because of this lack of communication between teachers, pupils and parents, teachers often have little understanding of the external pressures on individual children which can make it difficult or impossible for them to benefit from the education on offer in schools. In a context where school is seen as an institution separate from the rest of children's lives, still less attention can be paid by teachers and UNRWA education officials to the many factors which prevent children from taking up educational opportunities even where they are available.
The way forward for formal education in the camps, both in terms of provision and of improving quality, is bound up with the uncertainty of the present and future status of Palestinians in Lebanon since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It is not clear how many Palestinians will eventually receive Lebanese citizenship or what will become of those who do not. The future of the UNRWA schools is unclear: some may be integrated into the existing Lebanese system, though the criteria, process and timeframe for this can only be guessed at this stage. The Lebanese educational system is currently undergoing a process of reform with the introduction of a wider syllabus and more child centred teaching approaches. It is not yet clear to what extent the UNRWA schools will follow this reform process, particularly given the resource implications for training and materials. Decisions on making such an investment in the future of education provision in UNRWA schools is bound up with pending decisions about the wider future of the Palestinian community in Lebanon. In the current climate of uncertainty it seems likely that educational reform for UNRWA schools will remain 'on hold.'
Shifting attitudes of Palestinians to education
Until recently, education was seen by many Palestinians in diaspora as an insurance against political instability - a tool you can always carry with you no matter what happens. Education has also been seen as a passport to well paid jobs in other countries of the Middle East and beyond and many families have survived on the remittances sent home from relatives working abroad. In recent years, this view of the usefulness of a formal education has been challenged. In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, in reprisal for Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein, many Palestinians working in other Arab countries of the Middle East were dismissed and sent home to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the camps in Lebanon. Employment opportunities for Palestinians in the region and within Lebanon are becoming increasingly restricted. Within the camps, the PLO itself also undermined the traditional view of education as a way out of poverty by offering high wages for military service in stark contrast to the low salaries available to the few qualified professionals able to find work in the camps.
I would like to become a children's doctor, but Palestinians do not have the right here in Lebanon to become doctors. We are only refugees here. Warda, aged 13
'In the 50's (education) was the 'sure line' for the Palestinians - everyone was pushing their children in the schools. In my generation our parents provided us with everything so that we could go and learn. We didn't have electricity, just a lamp, but we worked really hard. At that time about 90% of Palestinian people were educated. This went on until the 70s. Even before '48, Palestine had high levels of education. In the 70s it changed with the PLO who came to Lebanon then. This was a big turn in the life of the Palestinians. The PLO raised the hope of the Palestinians by saying 'it's time to struggle to go back'. So even children were taken out of schools or encouraged to leave schools indirectly. If a 15 year old registered as a scout and carried a gun for one night he would have a salary of more than his father or his brother who had graduated from university. This made people think firstly that the priority was to go back to the homeland, secondly, with the financial restrictions of life, getting this money was easy - they didn't think of their education. Those who were sent to do medicine or engineering didn't have any opportunity to work in Lebanon. My niece was always the top student in medicine, and now she earns less than anyone in the family, only $100 - we support her. So it was a shock to some families to find that a child working in a garage could get $100 in two weeks. All this turned the perception of the importance of education. Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
50 years' work in Lebanon
Save the Children has been involved with Palestinians in Lebanon since the early 1950s, at first through UNRWA relief programmes in the refugee camps, and then through education and community programmes which evolved with the input of the local community in response to their changing needs. The following paragraphs outline the different phases of the programme.
· Relief programmes
During the 1950s and 1960s, Save the Children gave financial support to basic needs programmes in the refugee camps including shelter, food, clean water, health and medical care, as well as basic primary and education. During this phase, neither UNRWA nor Save the Children sought to address problems related to emotional or psychological damage in children. Educational provision in the camps followed the Lebanese national curriculum and focused on traditional subjects, with no provision for creative arts, humanities, sport or recreation.
· Orphan Help Programme
During the devastating Israeli attack of Lebanon in 1982, massacres in the refugee camps left large numbers of children orphaned. It was at this stage that Save the Children became more actively involved, establishing an 'Alternative Orphan Help Programme' which supported the fostering of orphans in their extended families or with childless couples through direct financial assistance; advice on dealing with problems related to caring for children who had witnessed and experienced violence and loss; and liaison with welfare, health and education services provided by the UNRWA authorities. This initial approach of supporting orphans through traditional family and community structures rather than institutions became the basis on which an educational programme linked to the needs of children in the camps was developed together with the community (explored in more depth late on).
· Pre-school programme
Through the work of the Orphan Help Programme, Save the Children staff soon identified a significant gap in services for pre-school children. UNRWA was mandated to provide pre and post-natal health care for children up to 3, and primary education for children from the age of 6. The effective exclusion of children between the ages of 3 to 6 from public services not only meant that problems could not be identified and addressed, but also ignored the importance of children's individual developmental needs at this crucial age, especially in a situation where families were often under pressure and struggling to meet basic childcare requirements.
'Save the Children began to lead the way forward towards a more holistic approach addressing learning and stimulation, communication, recreation and relaxation, continuity and havens of child centred activities based on play, creative arts, storytelling, drama and folklore' Julia Gilkes, Save the Children Middle East Early Childhood Development Advisor
Building on the links already established with children and families, in 1984 Save the Children began to run pre-school groups in UNRWA premises in the camps, both for orphans as well as for other children in the camps. In addition to providing pre-school care for 4-6 year old children of working mothers, the kindergartens offered play and stimulation in a safe environment that provided children 'with opportunities for self expression through creative activities such as role play, drawing, stories and song. Through a combination of experimentation, observation, external advice, training and links with other organisations, local staff were able to develop these activities in a way which was responsive to the children's own developmental needs. An awareness of the children's home lives built up through close contact with their families was an essential part of this process. This was strengthened by encouraging family involvement in kindergarten activities as an opportunity for learning about the educational and developmental needs of their children. Kindergarten staff were encouraged to develop working links with UNRWA primary school staff and to help children make the difficult transition into formal primary education.
· After school clubs
As work with families, children and teachers developed, the needs of older children of both primary and secondary school age began to emerge. In the Orphan Help Programme, many foster parents experienced difficulties with older children who displayed psychological and behavioural problems related to their experience of conflict and the pressures of life in the camps. Many children were required to work to contribute to family survival, making studying difficult or impossible to keep up, while those still in school often fell behind in classes or dropped out completely. It was clear that these problems were not limited to children in the Orphan Help Programme. Save the Children responded by opening after-school and Friday clubs for older children, usually using the same premises as the kindergartens. The clubs provided older children with creative and self-expressive activities not available within the formal school system, as well as remedial education and homework support.
'The idea of establishing the clubs originally was to provide children with somewhere to do their homework and to have contact with each other and to provide them with safe areas to play and to do something fruitful. In the camps there are only narrow roads and in 87 it was a difficult situation for children to hang around the streets' Alia Shana'a, Siblin Summer Camp August 7-27 1989
· Summer activities
From 1987 the programme with older children was extended to include summer activities often run jointly with other organisations. These activities included residential summer camps, some of which were held in Lebanese villages, providing an opportunity for children from the camps to meet with Moslems, Christians and Druze from the Lebanese community.
· Community involvement and children's participation
As with the kindergartens, liasing with families and teachers was an important part of the work of Save the Children staff in the clubs. From the start, the kindergartens and clubs included meetings and activities with families in support of activities carried out with children. These meetings also served as a channel to provide information and advice on issues affecting the whole family such as health and nutrition. During the 1990s, the participation of families became more active with parents sharing more in the planning and implementation of the programme. The role of children in planning, running and evaluating the activities of the clubs has also been more fully developed in recent years through a range of initiatives including: child to child activities; the production of magazines; children's committees; the training of older children to work as volunteers with younger children in the clubs and summer activities.
By 1996, the kindergartens and after school clubs had developed into all day centres for children and family activities open to all children, with morning and afternoon activities for children attending different shifts at school. The main focus of these centres continues to be educational, providing a space for the staff, children and their families to develop informal educational and recreational activities which are closely linked to family life and the wider community, but aim to complement the formal education available in UNRWA schools.
A RESPONSIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMME
This section explores in more depth the mechanics of how the specific needs of children growing up in the unique context of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon were identified and addressed. It shows how an approach which has consistently stressed partnership at all levels (between Save the Children staff and families, UNRWA authorities, other NGOs, etc) has been successful in developing locally owned, alternative educational models which address children's psychological and developmental needs. It also explores the obstacles and challenges encountered, some of which have been overcome while others remain, highlighting some of the limitations of NGO work in this context.
Understanding the context
Through long term involvement in relief and development work in Lebanon, Save the Children was able build up an in-depth understanding of the situation of Palestinian refugees. It was this familiarity with the situation that enabled Save the Children to quickly identify the gaps in service provision to children directly affected by the crisis in 1982 (Israeli invasion and camp massacres) and respond quickly with the establishment of the Orphan Help and Pre-School Programmes. Long term involvement of international NGOs with a specific community or programme is often seen as a weak point, raising questions of dependence and sustainability. In this case, the length of Save the Children's commitment (from 1948 to the present) was a major factor in building up the confidence and respect of the refugee community and building of a programme which successfully facilitates links between users and providers of services as well as developing practical responses to gaps in provision. Furthermore, the unique nature of this context, where, in the absence of their own government or local authority structures, the Palestinian community in Lebanon has, for the past 50 years, been effectively dependent on UNRWA and other international and non-governmental bodies clearly highlights that long-term involvement can be a valid response.
Understanding children's needs
Because the family was the starting point for the programme, Save the Children staff (all Palestinians living in the camps) were able to build up a sound understanding of the reality of children's lives and needs. Home visits, combined with the staffs role of liasing with teachers, health personnel and social workers, provided insights into children's lives and behaviour from a range of different perspectives. In this way, staff were able to appreciate and analyse, together with other members of the community, the impact of conflict and related pressures on the children's personal development, including obstacles to learning through the existing formal educational system. This was an important element at the beginning of the programme's development. It was also part of an ongoing process of constantly reviewing and considering the pressures faced by children based on practical experience of working closely with them, their families and other members of the community on a day to day basis. The following observations were made of children's behaviour at a summer camp:5
· many children find it difficult to play as children, have fun and enjoy themselves
· there is much aggressive and hostile behaviour between the children, and to the adults
· some children have stomach problems which we think are stress related and have been referred to the hospital
· children from Ein Hilwe are particularly naughty and uncontrollable (as they live in a camp which lacks authority at different levels)
· it is not easy working with these children, especially the 10-12 year olds as that is a difficult age anyway (adolescence)
· the children seem to be so full of such furious energy
· the children lack discipline, sometimes we are obliged to be tough
Over the past decade attention is shifting to the role of children in identifying needs and developing programmes. The focus on self-expressive activities in both kindergarten and after school clubs forms part of a process of encouraging children to reflect on and communicate their own life experiences, perspectives and aspirations, in ways that take into account the difficult situations in which children live and the traditional approach to childhood that offers little opportunity for challenging authority or seeking change. This approach, which builds on children's natural curiosity and interest, has been extended to children's active participation in running and developing activities through child to child projects and the children's committees which play a role in the clubs' decision making processes. Ways have also been sought to involve children more actively in the monitoring and evaluation of the programmes: a programme review workshop in February 1998 included not only reflection/discussion groups with children and youth, but also interviews in the community carried out by young people. Pre-school children were also encouraged to express their feelings and views of the programme through drawings and other creative activities.
I went to the kindergarten at three years, I used to suffer from fear so much, I was even afraid of the ants. I was worried all the time, afraid indoors and outdoors and I had no idea how to express my fears. But now I love music, to sing and play the tabla. Being in the club has developed my confidence, and I enjoy taking responsibility as a volunteer in the summer activities, and meeting with people with responsibility through the Child to Child programme. I want to become a social worker, to reach this you have to be trusted by others, share in their experiences and take care of your appearance.' Abdullah Abu Leil, 16 years. Orphan. Alternative Care Programme, El Buss Refugee Camp
Developing an appropriate educational response
Formal education provision for Palestinians is limited, with a basic curriculum, traditionally taught in crowded and under-resourced conditions. Through the clubs and kindergartens, it was possible to provide activities which not only strengthened and supported the formal education available to children, but also responded to their wider developmental needs through play, drawing, music, expressions of cultural identity, sport, recreation and vocational training. Over the years, these activities have been developed through a process of experimentation, observation and active consultation with children and their parents.
'In my study (research with children in 4th year of primary school) I found... hidden illiteracy when they are in school but don't learn to read or write. The teacher reads a sentence on the board and asks the children to read it, but the child isn't reading, he's just repeating. In the clubs children are helped with their schoolwork, but in the learning process they are also building their character and self-confidence. They now train to be leaders when they do child to child or other activities, so it is really improving their confidence. They are learning more about their culture, their lives, themselves, their rights, their community and how to live within it. This is all education. It is helping them improve their school achievements and behaviour in schools as well. The recreational activities help them as here they have something to do and aren't just in the streets. Parents feel that their children's personality and attitude is better, their school results are better.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
The children themselves are very conscious of the limitations of the education system and have a clear sense of what the different activities in the clubs can offer and how they have helped them personally. The following views were expressed by children in the review workshop of February 19986:
· I had no interest or aim in my life
· I had no self-confidence or self-esteem
· I was so afraid and timid and needed reassurance
· I was alone and had no friends and did not think about others
· I needed help with my studies, as it was difficult at home
· There was nowhere safe to play
· We are in big classes and the teachers shout at and hit us
· I am afraid to ask questions and afraid of teachers
· I needed to know more about my homeland, the songs, the stories, the folklore
'Help with lessons and sport is important. In UNRWA schools they are hit by teachers, shouted at, and told to stop talking all the time. In the clubs, the staff are interested in them, provide a place for study and help with problems in the homework. They laugh together, talk, have fun and she is confident to speak and ask questions, and is not afraid of the staff at all. At school there is football for boys and some P.E. but often teachers cancel it if it is at the end of the day, so that they can go home early. It is only 1 hour a week anyway. At the club there are other activities, making up games with balls' Nihaya (age 12), Alternative Care Programme, El Buss Refugee Camp
Training staff and volunteers has been an essential element in developing the awareness, skills and methodologies needed to develop educational programmes which can respond to children's wider psychological and developmental needs. Training programmes and workshops addressing both personal and professional development have been provided by the local staff themselves with support and input from SCF's regional advisors (in ECD and disability) as well as external consultants in specialised areas such as toymaking, and other NGOs in the region including UNICEF and ARC (see below). In addition to formal training, staff have been encouraged to support and help one another in developing their own skills through practical work experience:
'At first I was afraid of dealing with little children, aged 3-5 years, but with experience and support of the staff and some training I became more advanced, and learned to work well with the children. I learned about games and play activities, the psychological life of the children, and how children learn. I learned to make things from nothing. I found useless things could be used to make games and toys, cards, files and so on. My own character was also developing with more self-confidence and the ability to enjoy successful relationships with the community. I am known to many people and families and respected. I have a deeper knowledge of my society' Sawsan Shehadi. Kindergarten teacher, Rashadieh Camp.
Ensuring community ownership
The starting point of working within families, exposed staff to the importance of encouraging community ownership and participation in order to provide educational activities which are relevant, useful and appropriate. A number of different strategies have been used to promote broad-based participation, including: the creation of parents committees; children's committees (from 7 - 18 years); recruitment of volunteers from the community to help in the clubs; youth volunteers to help with summer activities. Offering training for all participants in the clubs including staff, parents, children and volunteers in a variety of areas ranging from literacy and hygiene to fundraising has been an important element in fostering more active involvement and a sense of ownership. In this way, members of the community have been able to analyse their own and their children's needs and develop the skills needed to put their ideas into practice.
As well as children's magazines there are parents magazines in all the clubs and kindergartens. Members of the parents' committees write in the magazines and they are kept in the resource centres. We are beginning now to call the clubs community centres. We have a lot of involvement of the community in the workshops with mothers, volunteers, fundraising and so on. The clubs are supported by the community - whenever we need prizes for competitions, they go around to shops and ask for contributions. Also activities like child to child are carried out with the wider community.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
Of course, this process has not always been easy, and many parents have at first been sceptical about the value of the clubs. The first step to showing parents the potential value of the clubs for their children has been to invite them to visit and take part in the activities so that they can get a better understanding of their purpose. Save the Children staff themselves are members of the community and form an important link with parents and other adults to whom they are often well known. The importance of this dynamic and the need for continuity within the programme in order to build strong community links has led to a policy of emphasis on recruitment and development of staff from within the communities:
'For a pre-school programme to achieve real community involvement, the selection of the staff is all-important. A teacher who comes from the community has a number of in-built advantages both in the detailed knowledge of the families with whom she will be working and her acceptability by the community as a whole.' 7
Many of the current staff were originally children in the kindergartens and clubs who went on to become volunteers and then permanent staff members. A kindergarten teacher now working at Rashidieh camp reflects on her own experiences as a girl participating in Save the Children summer activities in 1989:
'I remembered the days that I spent at Siblin Centre, then I made a comparison between my childhood and being a teacher and I admitted that each age has its own needs. During summer camp, I owned self-confidence, the ability to face problems and the flexibility of solving problems. At summer camp I realised the importance of the existence of the complete communication between the children and teachers. My self-confidence is increased and I learned many deep things about my society. 1 have now successful relationships with the community.' 8
Challenging attitudes towards education
The process of involving members of the community in the activities and running of the clubs also seeks to challenge and change existing attitudes which see education as something separate from children's experience and home environment, provided by professionals in a formal school environment. Encouraging the active participation of different members of the community aims to raise awareness of the links between children's developmental and educational needs.
'The kindergarten schedule was new and strange for parents
because learning through playing and actions, besides children's rights weren't
recognised by them. Kindergarten according to them was known as school. In the
beginning, there were a lot of questions about why there weren't desks and
boards in classes. But later they trusted the staff and the parents chose to put
their children in our Kindergarten and this was a challenge to us.'
Ali Hweidi, Rashydieh kindergarten team
Both teachers and parents can begin to appreciate the role of education as a powerful tool in responding to and tackling the effects of ongoing conflict as they see the impact of creative and self-expressive activities on their children's psychological well-being, behaviour, and communication within the family. In addition, staff and parents have experienced the potential of education as a positive force for change through individual conflict resolution. This has been most clearly demonstrated through summer camps held in Lebanese villages, involving children from the local Lebanese communities and Palestinian children from the refugee camps, where creative and recreational activities acted as a 'bridge' between children from communities in conflict with each other.
'At the beginning of the camp, some problems happened among Lebanese and Palestinians. It was a real reflection of the situation. It took us time to let them play as children coming to have fun and enjoy their time. This summer camp was a unique one to include Lebanese children from Amal movement families and Palestinians from the camps which suffered a lot from Amal movement siege. Some of them lost their families during the camp war, yet children could enjoy their time together when they learned songs for Palestine and Lebanon. Lot of discussions took place about loving each other.9'
Because the programme is firmly located within the community it is also possible to tackle sensitive cultural attitudes which impact on children's educational opportunities, in particular those of girls. While enrolment rates for girls in formal education are high, there are pressures from within the community which threaten girls' rights to educational opportunities through extracurricular activities such as the Save the Children clubs. Save the Children staff are conscious of their role, as members of both the local and the NGO communities, in tackling these attitudes.
'The parents have no problem. Our problem was with Islamic groups, though we didn't face any problem with parents. We have always had more girls than boys. Some areas now are affected because the Islamic groups make problems to us and to other NGOs. After the prayer on Friday they were telling the people 'don't send your children to the clubs'. This year in the summer camp we had only one-third girls.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
Being flexible and responsive to sudden change
Because of an emphasis on a partnership approach to working with other organisations and all sectors of the community, the programme was able to respond effectively to children's needs in times of crisis and emergency as well as to the problems faced daily by children in a situation of long-term conflict. During the camp wars of 1986, in addition to participating in the UN coordinated emergency response, Save the Children's specific role was to focus on immediate education and play provision. Given the upheaval which led to death, destruction, displacement and the disruption of normal health and education services, the rapid provision by Save the Children staff of 'normal' kindergarten services in whatever spaces they could find (often their own houses) was an essential element in relieving the effects of the crisis by re-establishing some kind of stability and security for children and for their families as well.
'El Hilweh kindergarten closed because of the situation and fight in Saida area from 24/11/86 till 18/12/86. The cover outside the classrooms got 12 small holes because of splits from a bomb which exploded very close. All the teachers are good. During the period, when the kindergarten was closing, the teachers worked in the survey and distribution done by the joint Relief Committee. Since 18/12/86 the work in El Hilweh kindergarten is normal and going well. About 95 of the children are back. The rest left El Hilweh and they are living in Saida.'10
Again in 1996, in the aftermath of the Qana massacre, Save the Children took part in an immediate and coordinated response from NGOs and the Lebanese authorities, and worked quickly and effectively with other local organisations to set up children's activities in the displacement centres.
Seeking complementarity with UNRWA educational services
From the start, Save the Children's educational programmes in the camps have sought to complement and strengthen the formal educational provision offered by UNRWA. The pre-school groups were established in response to the gap in services for 3-6 year olds. Activities focussed on early child development and preparation for entry to UNRWA primary schools, using child-centred methods.
Close contact with UNRWA teachers has led to practical cooperation on the transition of children from pre-school to primary, including children visiting for 2 days a week before formally enrolling in school, UNRWA teachers receiving files and evaluations of individual children coming from pre-school groups, and Save the Children staff visiting children in their new schools to give support and ensure that all is well.
Research carried out in 1994 with groups of children in the fourth year of UNRWA primary schools to assess the continued impact of the pre-school programme on achievement in formal school (including a control group who had not been in pre-school) confirmed the role of pre-school in helping children to benefit more from formal educational provision. 11
In the case of older children, after school and Friday clubs have offered homework support and remedial education as well as activities to address the social and emotional problems which can frequently disrupt formal education. The role of Save the Children staff in liaison between schools and families is an important element in identifying and addressing problems faced by individual pupils which may be interfering with their ability to study. In addition to this social work role carried out by Save the Children staff, activities and initiatives have been developed by children in the clubs themselves which aim to strengthen the links with UNRWA schools:
'We have a lot of activities with the schools through the children's groups: the education groups exchange bulletin boards (prepared in the clubs) with the schools. Also the schools have follow up with the children who are in the clubs -if there is any problem they contact the club before the parents to discuss the problem together and find the solution. Through the clubs the schools have this contact with the parents.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
A further aim of establishing good working links with teachers in the UNRWA schools is to attempt to influence teaching methodologies in the formal school system based on the educational approaches pioneered through the kindergartens and clubs. This is promoted through visits and joint training workshops (for example on making and using educational toys from recycled materials). Parents involved in the work of the clubs have also played an important part in raising UNRWA teachers' awareness of the value and potential of child centred teaching methods:
'UNRWA teachers of first and second elementary were invited to visit the kindergardens to be introduced to the kindergarten curriculum and work and to compare with their work. It is a trial to fill the gap between the two approaches. The kindergarten work is centred on subjects and books. The child in UNRWA schools finds himself among 40 - 50 children in a class full of desks, no toys or attractive pictures or means to learn. He is unable to move or play. As play is important and the children learn quicker through it, UNRWA teachers were introduced to all the toys produced by SCF kindergartens staff. The parents committee participated in the discussion which took place between kindergarten staff and UNRWA teachers. Parents were defending the kindergarten approach and they wished that UNRWA school take into consideration the child's needs and abilities when they plan any activity or lesson.' 12
Forging working links with UNRWA staff in the formal school sector has often been challenging: UNRWA teachers face formidable restrictions with large classes, few resources, a basic and traditional curriculum to follow, little training and low salaries. While it is sometimes possible to work with and influence individual teachers, it has proved much harder and often impossible to influence the wider organisation to bring more consistent and lasting changes in order to benefit children in the classroom. In this sense, the potential for cross learning between the formal and non-formal activities to date has been limited. Similarly, there is currently limited optimism that changes in the Lebanese system may bring about a review of curriculum and methodology within the UNRWA schools. The extent of any reform of the UNRWA education programme hinges on the very future and status of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, in addition to financial resource problems of an increasing Palestinian population drawing on a static UN budget.
Paradoxically, in seeking to influence UNRWA in the interests of children's wider developmental and educational opportunities, Save the Children have often found it easier to work constructively with other UNRWA bodies (health, welfare, technical engineering) than with the education sector.
One of the fundamental problems in working with UNRWA and seeking to influence their education programmes is that, the provider of formal education services here is not a national government. UNRWA is mandated to provide certain services, but is not representative of the Palestinian community, and is not permanent. Both these factors impact on the ability of UNRWA to develop more responsive educational services as well as on Save the Children's ability to influence any long-term changes.
Influencing and learning - partnership with other organisations
In the same way that staff have worked to build links with UNRWA teachers and officials, working links have been established with other organisations working with the Palestinian community in Lebanon. As well as seeking to avoid duplication and promote complementarity, the aim of this partnership approach is to influence the educational practice of other organisations working with children, while at the same time drawing on their skills and experience in order to strengthen and enrich Save the Children's programmes. The systematic documentation of Save the Children's experience, production and sharing of appropriate materials and joint training with staff of other NGOs have been key elements of Save the Children's partnership work with other organisations.
'This is an unmeasurable process, but through the training and visits we exchange experience, so staff may pick up ideas and use them with the children in their work. I know that some of the staff were very shy when they started to go to outside training other than our own training, for instance going to Beirut for UNICEF training on peace education. The impact on their personality was clear; many had never been out of their camps and they had to go to Beirut or the mountains for a weekend or week and this helped them in developing their personalities as well as developing their skills and capacity which they can use in the work. Whatever we do wouldn't be enough if we weren't in touch with outside experience.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon.
Working closely with other local NGOs with different perspectives and special expertise, offers the opportunity to draw on existing work experience in relation to emerging programme priorities. One such area is disability - in the camps there are high levels of disability in children, both conflict related and congenital. Problems faced by NGOs working in this area have included both lack of services and also negative attitudes to disability. Save the Children staff have worked to include disabled children across the programme and have drawn on the approaches of other NGOs, such as the Jihad Al-Wazir Foundation who have advised and supported Save the Children in the integration of disabled children into the clubs. This kind of exchange is often mutually beneficial but in a context which is highly politically charged, coordination with other NGOs is not always straightforward:
'If they feel that Save the Children is doing good, advanced work, some local NGOs are afraid to lose their own standing politically - many are related to political parties and each wants to dominate Palestinians in Lebanon. Now with the changes in the political situation with withdrawal of fighters, social work and NGOs are seen more as a way of keeping strength and dominance and position in the community. Save the Children is seen as non-political which gives us a good position in the community. Ordinary people want to send their children to non-political NGOs -people are becoming less political now. For example, it is easier for UNRWA to cooperate with us because we are neutral and international. This gives us strength on the ground. Sometimes we have problems with fundraising because people think that we are rich because we are international. This creates jealousy.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
Building on experiences through sharing at a regional level
Because of their continuing status as refugees and the limitations placed on travel and work, the Palestinian community in Lebanon are particularly isolated both within Lebanon and within the region. Making links with other educational and child focused initiatives around the Arab world has therefore been an important element in building up skills and resources within the programme through sharing and learning from other experiences in the region. This has been possible both through Save the Children and through the Arab Resource Collective (ARC), a regional organisation based in Beirut and Cyprus which translates and develops resources for work with children in Arabic through their 'childhood programme'.
Given the practical problems associated with ongoing conflict and isolation, access to high quality, appropriate and culturally sensitive resources has been particularly difficult. In addition to these practical problems, many of the resources available in Arabic (particularly in Lebanon where secondary languages are French and English) are translations or adaptations of European or American materials, with few primary sources drawn from the Arabic experience. A key element of ARC'S work are training workshops where NGOs from around the region come together to share ideas, experience and approaches developed through practical work with children. Ideas picked up at these workshops are taken back to the programmes, tested and further developed, often with input from children, parents and local partners, and then fed back to ARC through the regional workshops. In this way, ARC has been able to build up a body of resources for training and practical educational work with children, based on experience on the ground.
Save the Children, and particularly the Lebanon programme, have worked closely with ARC over the past decade to build up their capacity for the mutual benefit of child focused organisations working in the region. As well as providing funding to ARC as part of the regional programme, Save the Children's regional Early Childhood Development advisor has been seconded for 50% of her time as a resource person.
For local staff in the Lebanon, the impact of sharing at a regional level through ARC has not just represented access to improved materials, but also a way of breaking the isolation of living and working in the camps under what often feel like siege conditions, and raising self-esteem and community pride in the quality of work that the Palestinian community have been able to develop in challenging circumstances;
'(sharing with other organisations) helps to open your mind to new ideas and to think about and assess your own work. Not just the regional link, but also the links with London. Though the (ARC) workshops in Cyprus we realise that we have a lot to share which motivates us. The workshops aren't training, but sharing and learning from each other. The links with London have also been important in sharing learning. What we learn we can bring back to the other staff and do training. The children benefit from this.' Alia Shana'a, Save the Children Programme Coordinator, Lebanon
What has been learnt?
The benefits of partnership
This case study highlights the importance of developing a range of partnerships at different levels. Promoting the involvement of parents in the programmes has been mutually beneficial, ensuring that the programmes are relevant and appropriate to local needs, and helping adults address their own need for normality and self-determination by taking some control over their children's educational development. Similarly, by participating in the development and running of activities, children's self-esteem and sense of identity have benefitted. Promoting partnership with UNRWA (the UN agency responsible for education provision to Palestinian refugees) and other NGOs has opened up opportunities for sharing skills and experience, although scope for changing practice is limited given political and economic constraints.
The role of education in tackling the effects of war
The experience of this programme demonstrates above all that educational programmes have a key role to play in helping children and communities cope with living in a situation of constant insecurity and future uncertainty.
The potential of educational programmes in tackling the psychological effects of long-term conflict on children is highlighted in this example. Adopting an approach which looks at the whole needs of the child, the programme offered a safe environment for children to play and socialise, responsive educational activities based on constructive play and interactive learning, and cultural activities to reinforce a sense of identity and belonging.
Involving parents and other family members in the process provided an opportunity to help families identify and tackle problems of communication which are often rooted in the experience of living in a context of ongoing violence and insecurity.
Working to change educational attitudes and practices
The Lebanon case study reinforces the experience of other case studies (e.g. Mongolia), that change is not uniform, but tends to occur in pockets. Changes in attitudes to education and the potential of child centred approaches have come about as the community have see the practical benefits of play based and creative activities. A strategy of working solely through staff drawn from the Palestinian refugee community was a key factor in developing good community interaction and reinforces the experience documented in the case studies from India and Mali, that local people can quickly become effective early years teachers, given appropriate training and support.
It has proved much more difficult to achieve a wider impact through influencing UNRWA's approach to education. Even in the context of moves towards reforming the national Lebanese education system, UNRWA is inflexible in considering more child-focused approaches. This is primarily a result of its limited mandate as a service provider, alongside its financial insecurity and uncertain future.
The study demonstrates the need to develop strategies around such bottlenecks: continuing to promote change to education in the formal sector, where there has been some success in changing the attitudes and practices of individual teachers; concentrating efforts on areas where influence is possible, in this case bridging the gap between the reality of children's life experience and formal education by filling gaps in provision of recreational and creative activities, easing the transition from home to school life, and supporting children as they pass through primary and secondary school to get the most out of the education available.
Problems of sustainability and ownership
The Lebanon study raises the contentious issue of the long-term sustainability of programmes in contexts of on-going conflict. When outside agencies started work in the Palestinian refugee camps, no-one predicted that 50 years on there would still be no political solution. Although outside agencies and their donors do not have the resources or the mandate to take on the government's role in providing education on a long-term basis, the refugees have a clear unmet need that demands action.
In the case of the Palestinians, Save the Children's strategic decision to provide ongoing support to send a message of solidarity and commitment to the community has been central to the success of its programme, but has been difficult to sustain because of barriers to securing and diversifying the funding base.
The length of NGO commitment is often a key factor in inspiring the trust and respect of communities. Here it has also been instrumental in building up genuine community capacity to implement and manage relevant education programmes. Donors could usefully reconsider their linear interpretation of sustainability (as demanding that they should avoid long-term financial support), particularly in contexts where that long-term commitment is itself a precondition of the early success, quality and security of the programme. Making such a strategic decision would surely be better than falling into UNRWA's position of having to maintain an ongoing presence under a temporary and rigid mandate with declining per-capita funding.
· The long-term nature of the conflict and the insecure situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have required a long-term commitment on the part of Save the Children. This has been the basis both for developing the trust needed to innovate in such a depressing environment, and for developing communities' capacity to take more control over their children's education.
· The context of uncertainty, as third and fourth generation Palestinians continue to live in limbo in Lebanon, challenges our assumptions about the purpose of basic education. In this case, a useful education is one that helps children cope with life in the present, by addressing the effects of psychological and emotional stress, and reaffirming cultural identity.
· To achieve this, Save the Children worked closely with the local community to develop appropriate and effective education services that are complementary to the official education provision.
· Given that the value of education is widely questioned, with so few hopes of future advancement from school-based learning, Save the Children had to prioritise changing attitudes. The focus of kindergartens and after-school clubs was on developing an understanding of education as being an extension of children's experiences and their home environment.
· The programme also demonstrated effective roles for education in conflict resolution, such as the summer camps involving children from both Lebanese and Palestinian communities.
· Despite attention focused on sharing learning with the other key organisations, influence over the UN relief agency's teaching methods has been confined to the level of individual teachers, not changing organisation-wide ways of working. The UN agency's inability to reform is largely a consequence of its own impermanent and underfunded mandate as a service provider.
1 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 1997. UNRWA Factsheet. Lebanon
2 UNRWA 1997
3 UNRWA 1997
4 UNRWA, 1994. Report of the Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinain Refugees in the Near East. Lebanon
5 Shana'a, A, 1989. 'Siblin Summer Camp August 7 - 27 1989'. Internal report, Save the Children
6 'Palestinian Programme Review Workshop, Febuary 1998.' Internal report, Save the Children
7 Annual Report, Lebanon Programme, 1991. Internal report, Save the Children
8 Shana'a 1989
9 Shana'a 1989
10 Annual Report, South Lebanon Programme, 1987. Internal report, Save the Children
11 Shana'a, A. 'The impact of the kindergarten curriculum on the child's school acheivement in elementary level: a field study in the Palestinian South Lebanon camps.' Independent report, Lebanon
12 'Annual Field Report on the Kindergarten's programme, 1992'. Internal report, Save the Children