Meet the 17-year-old making sure refugee girls in Lebanon have access to education

Meet the 17-year-old making sure refugee girls in Lebanon have access to education

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Bushra, 17, came to Lebanon five years ago with her father, mother, and eight siblings to escape the conflict in Syria. Her father, who has a law degree, now works selling vegetables. The family lives in a small, rundown rental. Determined not to fall behind on her studies, Bushra confronted challenges with Lebanon’s public school system and helped design a program now being implemented by CARE that supports the secondary education of 60 girls at risk of dropping out. She’ll serve as a mentor to help girls stay in school. This is her story, in her own words.

“I was living a normal childhood like any other child my age. Suddenly something unbelievable destroyed all my dreams, my future — war.

I thought we would only stay in Lebanon for four months, so I decided not to enroll here. A year later, after having lost all hope of returning to my country, we started looking for schools. Unfortunately, I wasn’t accepted in any Lebanese public school. I had no choice but to attend an informal school. But that was OK. I was happy, it was an easy curriculum, we were all Syrians. I made lots of friends and got very good scores.

Four years later, we realized that the informal degree is not accredited in Lebanon and wouldn’t allow me to go to university. My friends and I were very afraid to lose our future. I got depressed and decided to leave school. But my mother, who believes in the importance of education, especially for girls, was very supportive. She convinced me to start grade nine in a public school. She spent three months negotiating and fighting with the school to get me in. I was finally accepted thanks to my mother’s efforts. The first year was very difficult. The school was far from home, the English classes were hard, and our home is small so I couldn’t focus on my studies. I also couldn’t register in afternoon homework support because we cannot afford the cost. But I was determined to achieve my goal and overcome all the challenges. I was memorizing new words every day. I used Google translate. I asked for my teachers’ support during breaks. I studied hard to succeed in the official exam. And I did! Now I’m in grade 12. My favorite topics are English and Biology.

It’s true that my grades have dropped compared to when I was in the informal school, but I don’t mind given that I’m still alive and I didn’t lose my future like other Syrian children. The harsh circumstances I went through didn’t break me. They made me into a stronger person.”

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Bushra, 17, came to Lebanon five years ago to escape the conflict in Syria. Wafaa Obeid/CARE