May 20, 2020

Reducing Tensions And Improving Learning Environment

Reducing Tensions and Improving Learning Environment Underserved Students at the Hawch el Arab Intermediate School

“With the heaters provided by CSP and the rehabilitated playground, the classes are warmer and the playground is more secure. Students enjoy a safe environment and come back home clean and healthy.” — Mohsen Abu Eid, the head of the parents’ committee at the Hawch el Arab Intermediate Public School.

Waad, a 14-year-old student currently enrolled at the Hawch el Arab Intermediate Public School in the Beqaa Valley, comes from the Baalbek-Hermel region, where the poverty and unemployment rates are higher than the national average. Her father, a farmer, struggles to find work due to the poor state of the economy, and her family is supported by her brother, who can barely cover their basic needs.

For Waad, education is crucial to build her own career path and to help her lift the family out of poverty. This is why she has consistently worked hard to earn good grades in school and hopes to join a technical institute to pursue accounting studies upon graduation.

Recently, though, Waad and her other peers at school have been struggling to stay motivated in the school’s deteriorating environment. “We just didn’t want to go to school, especially in the cold weather,” she says.

One of two public schools in the area, Hawch el Arab hosts 94 Lebanese students and, since the onset of the Syrian Civil War, has taken in numerous Syrian refugee students. But the school received minimal assistance to cope with this influx. The growing student body and the lack of financial support made the school fall behind on its maintenance dues, leading its equipment and facilities to fall into disrepair. The playground conditions became dangerous for the students and inadequate heating made learning conditions untenable in winter, negatively impacting students’ performance.

The deteriorating condition of Hawch el Arab began to inflame tensions between the school’s Lebanese and Syrian students; the latter were perceived as placing an added strain on Hawch el Arab’s already meager resources.

To address these challenges and advance the well-being of the students and staff, the USAID-funded Lebanon Community Support Program (CSP) provided Hawch el Arab with new equipment, including 98 desks and chairs; 11 heaters (one for each classroom in the school); and six large plastic solid waste bins. It also renovated classrooms and the playground. By improving the conditions at the school, the intervention, worth over $42K, also helped to alleviate tensions stemming from the neglect felt by the local Lebanese community.

Mohamed, a student at the school, says he used to hate waking up early and heading to school during cold mornings. “Now I wake up early. I bring my football with me, and come back early to play at the playground before the classes begin,” he says. He also enjoys class more. “It’s warmer and I can concentrate.”

For Waad, the new equipment and refurbishments have reinvigorated her drive to prepare for the Lebanese education exams, which she must pass later this year in order to continue her education. “Now I feel more excited to go to school with my classmates. We are working as a group to prepare for our exams and are concentrating more during classes. We care more about protecting the equipment because we don’t want to lose what we just received”, she says.

CSP is an $80 million, seven-year activity funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It is designed to provide a broad range of support to underserved and vulnerable communities in order to improve the delivery of essential services and enhance economic opportunities, primarily in Lebanon’s North, South, and Beqaa regions.

Happy Students at the School's Recess


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