JRS Lebanon: Working Towards an Unhindered Education

14 December 2022|JRS Lebanon

JRS Lebanon: Samer's photo that went viral on social media.

Providing support can help overcome obstacles, one of which is to stop bullies on social media

JRS believes that every child can succeed if given the right opportunities, and Samer’s* story illustrates the power of education.

Samer is a ten-year-old boy who along with his mother and two brothers, fled from the war in Al-Rakka, Syria, which served as the capital of the ISIS caliphate. Currently, they reside in Bourj Hamoud, one of Lebanon’s most impoverished districts.

“We ran away from the ideology of ISIS and the threat of death for those who do not adhere to their rigid rules. We did not feel secure,” stated Samer’s mother.

When Samer was old enough to go to school, his mother was initially concerned about how to provide him with an education, given the family’s financial struggles. She chose to enrol her child in the FVDL school after hearing positive feedback about the JRS School in Bourj Hammoud from a friend.

Challenges in the public school

JRS offers nonformal education in Bourj Hammoud, where students can receive CBECE (Community Based Early Childhood Education) Kindergarten classes. The CBECE program provides certificates issued to refugee students by the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, enabling them to continue their education through enrolling in grade 1 in public school.

Samer started in the Kindergarten English program at the JRS school in 2016. Later, he was informed that we would only be eligible to enrol in a public school that taught in French. He switched from English, a language that he loved, to French, which he is also delighted to learn.

After graduating from kindergarten, Samer enrolled in a public school, where he encountered many difficulties. An appropriate learning environment for children was not present.

“The public school class was overcrowded, and the students had trouble paying attention,” he said. Additionally, the curriculum was not implemented properly, resulting in the students receiving a condensed form of information, leaving them with no opportunity to comprehend and learn properly.

Given that the teacher was supervising a large number of students, it was almost impossible to individually attend to each student’s needs and monitor their progress. These combined issues created a setting that was not conducive to learning.

In order to better understand his class lessons that he was taking at the public school, Samer enrolled in the JRS learning support classes. They were not sufficient to address all the obstacles he encountered at school. Yet, the support of the JRS team in FVDL enabled him to continue his academic path, with his parents witnessing a noticeable improvement in his performance and grades.

Samer’s enthusiasm for learning was one day captured on camera, and soon after, his picture spread across the news and social media.

Samer was sitting on top of a dumpster, reading a book he found while gathering plastic to sell to help his parents pay their bills. Samer was interviewed by numerous media outlets, and his image rose to fame in Lebanon and went viral on social media.

He was disappointed because none of the promises made to him by the person who took the picture about helping him with his education were kept. Samer felt that he had been used by the media to make their story for the day and then forgotten, according to his mother. He was overcome with a sense of discouragement and abandonment.

Furthermore, Samer experienced bullying at his public school because of the popular photo that was shared on social media. He “smelled like garbage,” his classmates began to say. Discouraged, he began to lose interest in pursuing his education. At that point, he stopped going to his public school and started skipping many of the JRS learning support classes.

JRS noticed his absence and acted quickly to assist him. Samer was referred to another organization for protection to make sure he was safe.

His actions changed drastically. His learning support tutor, Joumana Salloum, observed some agitation and confusion in his general behavior. His public school’s ongoing bullying had an impact on him, and he felt like he needed a sense of security and support.

“He needed someone to be there for him. Going through such an incident is difficult, especially when he felt alone and needed someone to look out for him and inspire him to grow strong and brave,” Joumana said.

When the tutor showed him affection, support, encouragement, and most importantly, provided a sense of safety, Samer’s inquisitiveness and love of learning returned. The JRS team is continuing to build on these developments to help ensure that his educational journey will continue unhindered.

Samer has significantly advanced in the learning process. He participates in class, shares thoughtful remarks and interacts with his classmates. His valuable contribution boosted his self-confidence and served as a reminder that education is key to achieve greater success.

“I wasn’t sure what to do at first. I was not at my academic level. I didn’t know how to learn, so I didn’t think highly of myself. On my math exams, I used to get one out of 20, but now I get 19. I am doing well,” says Samer.

His enthusiasm for education and learning has been reignited with the support of JRS. He gained the ability to overcome the pain caused by his bullys’ words. He came to understand that knowing and believing in himself is what defines him, and not the words of his bullies.

This story emphasizes the importance of providing support to children who attend public schools during Lebanon’s educational collapse, which has severely impacted the quality of education provided by public schools.




JRS remains committed to accompanying, serving, and advocating for children to succeed in their educational journeys in these trying times. Samer’s story, and hundreds of children like him, give strength and inspiration to each of us as we continue to navigate these uncertain moments in Lebanon.

*Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.