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French Version

A bright school makes for a better education

NGO projects set students to painting, scrubbing

While painting walls, scrubbing floors and dusting aren't anyone's idea of fun, for one group of children such mundane chores are their way of helping underprivileged children attain a better education.

In celebration of Education For All Week, non-governmental organizations across Lebanon are doing their bit in promoting the value of education, alongside UNESCO Beirut and the Lebanese National Commission, which recently launched a public awareness campaign with posters reading: "7.5 million Arab children are out of school. Why? Educate to end poverty."

One of the NGOs involved is the Children Interactive Community (CIG), a group that proposes and conducts educational programs throughout Lebanon in partnership with local government centers.

Commenting on the NGO's latest initiative, a renovation project at local schools in the capital's Bourj Hammoud and Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhoods, CIG's program coordinator Rana Rahal said: "If children are happy and comfortable in their school, then they will learn better and feel like a part of the school and not drop out."

The two neighborhoods were chosen because of their dense population and high levels of illiteracy.

CIG was at St. Joseph Elementary School in Bourj Hammoud on Thursday, busy freshening up the school alongside its students, who came dressed in their worst cloth for the occasion.

"I love it!" shouted Khaleel Moustafa, 12, as he dipped a paint brush into a bucket, splashing himself happily with a fresh goat of grey paint meant for the school's main gate.

"I want to fix up my school and make it beautiful and the best school in the area," he said.

Moustafa was joined by the "talented threesome;" Samer al-Masri, 15, Ali Faqeeh, 14, and Salam Younis, 14, who had already painted and fixed-up their own school in Bourj al-Barajneh.

The three boys are former drop-outs that CIG took in as part of their "Out of School" youth program, where drop-outs take intensive three month classes in Arabic, English and math to get back on track and back into school.

According to CIG, 50 drop-outs entered this year's program, with 39 now back in school and the rest citing "family reasons" as their reason for not going back.

"It is just fun helping out as we make new friends and get to learn more about renovations," said Younis, who wants to be an interior decorator one day.

As for Masri, fixing up schools gives him a chance to practice his singing as he paints, hoping one day to make it big.

Renovating schools is part of CIG's "edutainment" initiative, where through teamwork, craft and art students learn about each other as they work on projects and address important issues such as the environment and hygiene.

In addition to the walls of schools, the youngsters also get to paint murals and sketches depicting recycling, pollution and basic hygiene.

"It's [all about] making the student feel like his opinion and his input is respected and he is part of the school," said Rahal.

"It's about making the child feel worthy and getting an education at the same time."

Beirut 02-05-2005
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star

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