Despite the odds, a bright future lies ahead

13 July 2015
Seventeen-year-old Nada Shawaheen placed first in the literary section of this year’s national twelfth grade exams in Syria. Her family was forced to flee their home in Yarmouk when armed violence broke out inside the camp in December 2012. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad.

"For Palestine refugees, education is a lifeline,” says 17-year-old Nada Shawaheen, a bright and confident Palestine refugee student from Yarmouk, Damascus. “It helps develop knowledge and skills to thrive in a challenging environment.” Nada ranked first in the literary section of the Syrian national twelfth grade exams, with a score of 2,745 out of 2,800. Committed to working towards a positive future for herself, her family and her community, Nada also hopes that her passion for learning will allow her to continue her studies at university.

Nada received her primary education at UNRWA schools in Yarmouk, until armed violence broke out inside the camp, forcing her family to flee in December 2012. "I have a strong sense of belonging to the schools there and would like to acknowledge the dedicated teachers who worked tirelessly to engage us in learning,” she says. “Without their support, I would not have been able to achieve this result.” After leaving Yarmouk, Nada and her family settled in Damascus, where she started attending the government-run Abdul Qader Mubarak School.

Despite being displaced and missing months of schooling, Nada remained determined to achieve her academic goals. She switched from studying scientific subjects to focus on the literary section in order to mitigate the impacts of potential displacement. "I knew I could rely on myself to study in case the situation worsened and I had to miss school again," Nada says.  

By focusing on her studies and applying excellent time management skills, Nada was able to achieve her success without relying on a private tutor. “I am really proud of Nada, not just because she is a very dedicated student and has always had exceptional results,” says her father Khaled, “but also because she does not depend on motivation from others, and she is driven to do her best and understand things.”

The crisis in Syria, now in its fifth year, continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of civilians. More than half of the 480,000 Palestine refugees in Syria have been displaced, leaving behind their family members, friends and communities. Education provides a critical source of hope and stability for children and families, and Palestine refugee students like Nada will play a crucial role in maintaining the resilience of their community as the crisis becomes increasingly protracted.

Nada dreams to continue on to university to study law or the media. She is keenly aware of the importance of higher education in the context of the conflict and determined to use her skills and knowledge to build a better future.