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Devoted Syrian father places education above all

Syrian refugee students participate in Arabic class at the JRS school in Kafar Zabad, Bekka Valley, Lebanon (Don Doll S.J. — Jesuit Refugee Service)
Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Beirut) October 10, 2013 – Throughout my time working for Jesuit Refugee Service in Kafar Zabad, I have encountered many inspiring and resilient families and children. People who have been able to place the needs of others ahead of their own. One such person was a Syrian father whose dedication towards his daughter touched me deeply. Notwithstanding his own struggle to get by, he put the education of his daughter, her future, first.

This dedication was made evident to me when the JRS school in Kafar Zabad opened. The moment school registration opened in Kafar Zabad, families quickly enrolled their children and within no time, there was no longer any space available for more students. The next day a father named Nizar* came to the school and begged us to accept his daughter, Zeana*. I’ll never forget the young girl’s face, her enormous smile was just brilliant.

I told him that there was no space, but he just refused to accept my answer. He begged me, saying, “I’ll bring the desk, the chair, the books, please just let my daughter come to school.”

His determination to send his child to school touched me deeply, how could I refuse? I cannot describe the joy on the father’s face when we accepted his daughter into the overcrowded classroom. 

They were living in a garage beneath a house that they rented from a local family. The sanitary conditions were so bad the daughter caught lice. The landlord’s family did not want the lice to spread, but instead of treating the girl’s lice, one day they just shaved all her beautiful hair.

Zeana was bald, completely bald. Of course, looking like a boy, the other kids at the school teased her. It was obviously hard for her, but she still came to school and participated in class every day.

Then out of the blue, she just stopped coming. I went to the garage where they lived to look for the family, and asked around, but they had just vanished.

Some say they went to Turkey, but no one really knows. I’ll never forget them, I’ll never forget how devoted that father was to his daughter’s education. I hope my devotion to educating students displaced from war will continue to help families like Nizar’s. He inspires me to persevere as he did.

by Sally Salem, Jesuit Refugee Service Coordinator in Kafar Zabad, Lebanon

*This name been changed for reasons of security.


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