Lebanon (MNN) — The refugee crisis in Lebanon still hasn’t gone away, and now, it’s affecting a new generation of children born as refugees. Pierre Houssney of Horizons International says that ten years ago, there were some 200,000 refugee children in Lebanon who didn’t have a school. Now, those same children have grown up to become parents in their own right.
“We’re having an intergenerational educational breakdown,” Houssney says. “It’s one of the main issues that lead to the extremism of a population. When kids go uneducated, they become… easy targets for terrorist extremist groups to recruit.”
How does someone go from missing out on classes to joining an extremist group?
“If you fill a child’s head with information and teach them to read and write, they can be educated, and they’ll be driven toward a career. But if you don’t, then anybody who comes along and puts… a machine gun to their head and says ‘let’s go,’ then they’re going to be compelled by that because they don’t have anything else compelling in their life.”
In other words, their options are limited. Without an education, there are very few jobs they can get – and the fact that they’re refugees makes things even worse. As Houssney puts it, they’re “stateless kids.” And when they can’t get jobs, they can’t provide for their families, which makes it harder for their families to get jobs, and so the crisis compounds. This makes young refugees easy targets for fundamentalism and exploitation.
What’s the solution? While local Lebanese schools do provide some education, Syrian refugee children can only join for the day starting in the afternoon, meaning they only get a half day of school while locals get the entire day. But even then, the teachers are often underqualified and not motivated to help. “It’s kind of like they bring in some babysitters, and they do it for a little bit of money,” Houssney says.
When those kids come to Horizons International schools, “They need a lot of catch-up. We’ve had 12-year-olds who had never learned how to cut paper with scissors. We had to start first-grade classes that were for mixed ages between eight and 12 years old.”
What help Horizons can give is limited by the organization’s resources. Their Beirut facility is too small to meet the needs of that area. Horizons would like to take over failed or bankrupt schools around the country and revitalize them, but financial resources are scarce.
These schools represent a chance for kids to build a new future – not only in their earthly lives, but in their eternal ones. “We really regard it as a discipleship program first and foremost,” Houssney says. “We teach not only all the school subjects, but we teach the Bible… that is really what makes this a spiritual, especially impactful endeavor.”
Want to help? Ask God how He wants to use you. Pray specifically for children in Lebanon to find Him as they look for purpose and fulfillment. Consider giving to help support Horizons and the schools the organization runs.
Learn more about Horizons International here.
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.