Aya Nimr, a 10-year old Palestine refugee girl, grew up in Yalda, south-east of Damascus. She has fond memories of living there, but eventually the ongoing conflict in Syria, which injured one of her uncles and killed another, forced her family to flee. When they arrived in Lebanon, in mid-2012, “we thought that we had reached a haven of stability and that we could return to the normal pace of our lives, but every two weeks, we had to pack and move from one house to another.”
This displacement and instability had its own burdens, and among the casualties was education. “My parents didn’t have time to think about enrolling us in schools,” Aya says; it was more urgent to find a house that could accommodate all eight members of the family. Only after several months was Aya’s father able to find a house in Burj Barajneh camp, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Even so, not all of his children could resume their education and go back to school.
“Only my older brother and I go to school now,” says Aya, who attends the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Tulkarem School. “My other two brothers work along with my father, so that we can pay the rent and afford food and other things we need.”
At her school, Aya has been able to participate in an UNRWA summer recreational programme, 'Play and Learn’, supported by the United States Department of State. The programme gives Aya and other students like her an opportunity to play, dance and act in a safe, supportive environment. “The kids here in this school remind me of my cousins and the times we spent playing together in Syria,” she says. “When I’m acting or dancing with them, I feel like I’m living a new life – one with a better story than mine. But sometimes I like to play my real role, so people can know how terrible our living conditions are.”
On the table in front of her, Aya spreads out her colorful stationery, books and school bag, describing how eager she is to come to school each morning to play and study with the other children. She is confident about her education. “I feel reassured now,” she says. “The teachers are training us on the Lebanese curriculum, which is much harder than the one in Syria, but I am sure I will succeed next year.” Working with its partners, UNRWA is committed to ensuring that Palestine refugee students displaced from Syria, like Aya, have the chance to do so.