Syrian students flock to Lebanese schools – By Stephen Dockery
BEIRUT: Schools and universities around the country are seeing a spike in student application rates, as families fleeing Syria’s internal strife look for ways for their children to continue their education abroad.The country’s public schools have already enrolled hundreds of Syrian refugees and Lebanese universities are getting more interest from abroad as Syrian campuses are becoming ideological battlegrounds.
“Most of these families know Beirut, they are not strangers here,” said George Damon, headmaster at the American Community School in Beirut, about Syrian families’ interest in the private school.
ACS is reporting an unusually large wave of applicants last month and in recent weeks, due to the shutting of the Damascus Community School.
Damon said the school received over 50 applications, a large number for this time in the school year.
The two schools have a very similar curriculum, which allowed ACS to admit slightly more than 20 applicants, school officials said.
Other private schools around the country like Brumana High School, The College Notre Dame De Nazareth, and Institut Moderne du Liban are also reporting a number of applications from Syrians who recently fled their embattled country.
Damon said that while the school was unable to accept all the Syrian students who applied, the families were able to find alternatives.
“There are other resources, they found attractive places to go,” he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Syrian children are continuing their education in Lebanon’s public schools.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is currently providing 334 children with remedial classes with the help of Save the Children Sweden and 465 children have been enrolled in Lebanese public schools, according to the U.N. body’s latest report.
Mounting pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime over its response to the 11-month uprising has led an increasing number of Syrians to take refuge in Lebanon.
As the armed conflict shows no signs of abating, many Syrian and expatriate families have made the decision to leave before the situation worsens.
The UNHCR reports that there are currently 6,290 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.
Activists working with the community say there are several thousand more Syrians who are living in the country who have not registered as refugees because they have family and financial connections to support themselves.
Evidence of those several thousand unregistered Syrians can be seen in the enrollmentof the country’s private schools and universities, some of the first places financially well-off families contact when relocating.
A number of Syrian university students are expressing interest in the country’s major institutions like the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University.
“A lot of Syrian students in Syria are asking about transferring to LAU and AUB because of the situation,” said the president of the Syrian Cultural Club at AUB Abdullah al-Jajeh.
Jajeh said he has been in touch with a large number of students in Syria who are considering leaving because of the violence and looking for opportunities available to them elsewhere. Many of the Syrians who are now in Lebanon and enrolled at a university have also joined Jajeh’s club.
Syrian universities have been the site of a number of protests and increasingly politicized arenas for pro-regime and opposition forces.
The general instability in the region has caused a number of countries to request that their students studying in Syria leave the country.
“Syrian universities are witnessing demonstrations, sometimes, which makes it unsafe for them,” Jajeh said. – Additional reporting by India Stoughton and Wassim Mroueh