By Hannah Brenton and Natasha Abdel-Baki

Bordering Syria, the city of Arsal faces constant insecurity – falling victim to the overspills of the Syrian conflict. Located within the Valley of Rabbits area (Jurud region), the Arsal Education Centre is one of SB Overseas (a grassroots NGO) learning centres in Lebanon aiming to provide supplementary education opportunities to support children to enter the Lebanese public school system. The Breteau Foundation has partnered with SB Overseas at the centre, to implement our digital education programme – providing tablets loaded with quality educational content and supporting teachers who work tirelessly at the centre through our comprehensive teacher training programme.

Arsal Education Centre is cited as a real success story by SB Overseas and continues to support children with their education reintegration despite violent clashes in the Valley of Rabbits area between the Lebanese army and non-state armed group (in particular Daesh). The success of the centre is evident in the way that it meets its overall objective of returning children to public school. Due to its success, Arsal Education centre maintains a flexible location, moving based on the need of the local area. The centre therefore targets areas in Arsal based on needs assessments of students to be enrolled in public schools and when their mission is complete, the centre moves to a new area where children need support.

The Breteau Foundation’s Lebanon Country Manager, Natasha Abdel-Baki, believes that the reason for the centre’s success is the incredibly passionate women that teach there. Working with these teachers, both in workshops and classroom support sessions, Natasha is able to see the commitment and drive that the teachers have to support the region’s children. In particular, the teachers have truly embraced the Breteau Foundation’s Digital Education Programme, engaging with the training and integrating technology into their classroom practice. For the Foundation, it’s a real honour to work with those that share our vision of a quality education for all. Further empowering these fantastic teachers allows the Breteau Foundation to reach the children that SB Overseas supports, who have fled and grow and develop within, the Syrian crisis.

What is particularly striking about the impact of Arsal Education Centre, is the teachers’ commitment to support not only the children, but the community as well. The teachers see that the educational resources they have to hand, can empower women in the community to further their education. The centre targets women with classes to support them in a range of skills including basic literacy and numeracy.

The Breteau Foundation tablets are loaded with content to support primary aged children with literacy and numeracy, which has been able to translate into supporting Mothers to fill their own knowledge gaps. The empowerment of these Mothers is an added value that we had not expected, and has a huge reaching impact in supporting not only the Mothers, but the children as well. It has long been recognised that the impact of educating parents, cascades down to improved outcomes for children.

“Don’t we deserve to be treated like others, the war deprived us from the very basic needs and necessities of decent survival, give us the chance to have the feeling of being a human.”

Mother at Aarsal Education Centre

The tablets not only provide educational benefits for these women, but also provide access to technology that would otherwise be missing. One Mother suggested that using these technological devices would let the women feel that they were equal with others, and support in removing some of the associated feelings that come from having so little in comparison to others. In this sense, education technology can act as an equaliser, ensuring that digital education is available to all regardless of conflict and displacement.

The work of the Arsal Education Centre team is truly inspiring and the Breteau Foundation is honoured to support these teachers. High quality digital educational resources are playing an important role in the classroom, supporting teachers to develop both children and women to ensure that this generation of Syrians do not become the lost generation. Conflict may have affected the lives of millions of Syrian children, but access to quality education can prevent this crisis from affecting their future.