Refugees are more than just numbers

salamBy Salam Al-Nukta, youth Advisor to the GEM Report.

In a world where war is constantly taking place, violence and human rights violation force hundreds of families to flee their countries everyday leaving behind wounded memories, beloved ones and broken lives.

In honor to millions of these people, the United Nations General Assembly has decided to bring world leaders’ attention on every 20th of June in every year to urge them to stand in solidarity #WithRefugees.

Very often we see the media doing a great job covering the negative impact of refugees on host communities. In a result, the world now points at them as the problem rather than victims of a battle they didn’t choose to be a part of.

In Syria, where I live, crisis has left behind huge destruction. Thinking about Syria conjures up pictures of wounded people, wrecked houses and poor refugees scattered and lost in camps.

syria refuge
Syrian children in Lebanon, Beka’a valley. Credit: Justine Redman

Over 4 million Syrian people are refugees with more than 6 millions internally displaced. The number doesn’t stop here. It is still dramatically escalating, producing the world’s worst refugee and displacement crisis since the Second World War.

These people fled their country looking for a safer life. Yet they are still being rejected their basic human rights, including and not limited to education.

According to Article 26 in the Universal declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to education.” Education must be free and elementary education must be compulsory, but many refugees and displaced people have lost this right.

UNESCO infoGRAPHIC ON REFUGEE CHILDRENChallenges to education faced by refugee families include not having financial abilities to cover school costs, the hardship of communicating with host communities and running behind the advanced curriculum in the country where they arrive. Language, cultural and other barriers still exist.

Education should not be considered as a privilege but should be taken as a basic human right for all, including for refugees. We shall not look at refugees as just numbers, because they are not. They are humans, like you and me. They breathe, they eat and they get married. They are eligible of going to schools as well.

It is imperative to design a well-structured and interactive educational system where barriers to education for refugees disappear and hope is there again to ignite the spark of a better future.

Salam and Eyad

In 2016, me and my friend Eyad Alkhayat, crossed the border out of Syria to pitch an idea of delivering proper education using innovative hubs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Over 1.1 million Syrian people are registered as refugees there.


During our stay in Lebanon and in a short analysis of the situation faced by refugees there, we concluded that their obstacles are not limited to their place or time. They had to run with minimal goods to escape violence. In result, they left behind their official documents, including birth certificates, Identification papers and academic transcripts.

Additionally, low livelihood income puts most children in front of only 1 option, which varies according to gender. Boys are more often obliged to drop out of school and work instead. On the other hand, girls are usually less fortunate. Despite their young age, most girls are not welcomed in their families due to high poverty rates among refugees. Therefore, fathers are more likely to sell their daughters to older men for marriage.


beka a valley
Syrian boy in the Beka’a valley, Lebanon. Credit: Justine Redman

We named our project “ChangeMakers Academy.” We didn’t pretend to be able to get all these kids back to school and stop them from having to work to support their families or end child marriage. Nevertheless, we are aiming to create opportunities and perhaps give these people a chance by changing their lives again. In spite of not having official academic transcripts, a refugee can still enroll in our programs.


We are looking to provide an alternative to these people where they can still make a decent living and win their education.

Through a rewarding system program with intensive entrepreneurship courses and graduation projects based on their communities’ needs, with small grants children are able to study and earn money while they can still build their own startups.

“Refugees are normal people with normal or high intelligence. If a normal person can learn finance, marketing and planning, then so can a refugee.” The kickstarter for our programme was in Lebanon. However, Syrian refugees are not limited to one country. Refugees are all over the world and they need serious actions.

The world should act immediately to end this dilemma and stop looking at refugees as just numbers to add up. We must stand #WithRefugees to acknowledge and provide their rights and their right to education.



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