While education isn't an all-encompassing solution for refugee kids, it can make a big difference.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"I don't want to be anything. I won't become anything," Zeinab said
Zeinab is one of those kids you'd expect to be at the top of her class.
Zeinab has been assured for years that she would not become anything in life.
While education is certainly not an all-encompassing solution for refugee kids like Zeinab, it can make a big difference.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reports that 9,500 people a day — approximately one family every 60 seconds — are being displaced in Syria. The average global displacement for all refugees is 17 years, and it's likely that for Syrians, the time period will be longer. So while the proportion of the refugee crisis is unprecedented — a generation without education is a lost generation — the impact of quality education could be huge.
A recent Human Rights Watch study concluded that ensuring Syrian refugees have education will reduce the risks of early marriage and military recruitment and will increase their earning potential. Most importantly, education will shape Syrian youth to tackle the challenges they will face rebuilding their country or adjusting to unpredictable futures.
For three months, Zeinab was part of an education project that hoped to improve basic language and math skills for children with significant gaps in their education.
The program was aimed at helping these kids eventually enter the Lebanese public school system, but it was also about instilling hope and reinvigorating ambition in a generation that seems to have given up. The classrooms became safe spaces not only for education but also for building self-esteem and inspiring dreams for the future.
When the program ended, I asked Zeinab the same question again: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
This time she had an answer ready: "I want to be a teacher."