Lebanese schools resume amid mourning

Many of Lebanon’s 400,000 state school children are returning to the classroom for the new year term mourning their friends who died in the country’s conflict with Israel.

Fifteen children were killed during an Israeli attack on Qana

Almost every Lebanese child knows, or is related to, someone who was killed in the month-long conflict and the process of mental healing is expected to be difficult.

Of the 1,200 civilians who died, 30 per cent were children under the age of 12.

In Al-Rawda school in Qana, southern Lebanon, 15 children will not be attending classes this year – they were killed and so was one of their teachers.

Yet Zeinab Hachem, 14, survived one of the deadliest attacks of the war.

She was taking shelter in a Qana basement with members of her family when the house was hit by Israeli fire. Twenty-nine civilians died, 15 of them children.

Zeinab told Aljazeera: “My brothers used to be here with me … now they are not.

“My brother’s seat in class is empty … not only were my brothers killed, all my cousins were killed … even my father … only my mother and sisters are left.”

Psychological support

Many children have similar stories.

Fifty schools were destroyed during the war and 300 partially damaged.

And about $70 million worth of damage was inflicted on the Lebanese education system during the conflict.

Teachers are ready to offer psychological support.

Rudeinah al-Salman, teacher at the school, says: “When we started the school year, we had in mind, ‘We must work with them.’

“We have to make them realise about the war and to learn from these thing … to have strong personality to go on.”

These children are doing their best to survive.

Cluster bomb threat

Teachers explain the dangers of unexploded cluster bombs which the Israeli military dropped across south Lebanon.

Ali Shalhoub was injured by one of the bombs – a constant reminder to his friends of the danger they pose.

The playgrounds have been cleared of bombs now and the children play safely with smiles on their faces.

But with memories of their missing friends so raw, who is to know what lies behind their smiles?

Source: Al Jazeera