Educating Syria’s lost generation
As his house burned down, he ran inside to grab his university ID. Meet the man teaching Syria's lost generation.
“The bombings were getting closer and closer,” says Dr Nasser Alzhouri.
As the war in Syria raged, the Alzhouri family home burned down. Alzhouri and his son, Suliman, set off for Lebanon. The only thing Alzhouri took with him was his degree certificate.
Unbeknown to his father, Suliman had snuck back into their house to rescue his university ID card. The values that his father had instilled in him, that education is everything, had compelled him to return.
Since then, Suliman has worked as a teacher in Lebanon’s Tal Abbas refugee camp, housing many refugees fleeing Syria’s war.
There are more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, about 80 percent of whom are women and children.
“I’m so proud of him,” Alzhouri tells of Suliman. “Especially in this difficult period our children are living in. He brings back smiles to their faces.”
More than 465,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war and over one million have been wounded. Some 12 million people – over half the country’s population – have been displaced.
“I remember I was in the third grade,” a student says, recalling her life before the war. “All the children were happy. I remember the beautiful time when dad was still with us.”
But she has managed to find hope.
“The school is my second home,” she says, smiling. “It gives me more than I give to it. I would be so happy to go back home (to Syria). I’d go home today. Why wait for tomorrow?”
Despite their young age and all they’ve been through, many of Suliman’s students wish to return one day and rebuild their country.
“I want to be a teacher,” says one child.
‘I want to be a doctor, to heal the sick,” adds another.
“Study. Just study,” a classmate says.
Alzhouri knows too well how the war has affected an entire generation of children. “They can’t get an education. This is a tragedy. There’s another generation that hasn’t even begun to study. They’ve never been in school. We’re in this situation for five years; whole generations are lost.”
He has taught his son to help others.
“We’re the children of Syria,” says Suliman. “Syria needs me and needs them. My work is for the love of homeland.”