Al Jazeera World

I am a Syrian Child

The impact of the Syrian civil war seen through the eyes of refugee children at risk of becoming a lost generation.

Filmmaker: Mirna Shbaro

In March 2011, protests broke out in Syria which have led to arguably the worst refugee crisis since World War II. While millions of Syrians affected by the uprising remain internally displaced, the majority have fled the country, seeking refuge in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.

According to official figures from UNICEF, children currently account for just under half of the total number of refugees. These children are now at the real risk of becoming a “lost generation”.

No one would wish this life on any child. They've already been through a trauma when they arrive. They've seen death, bombings and things that no child should see. They lived in a normal home but now they live in tiny rooms and tents. They’ve not only lost friends in Syria, they've sometimes lost family, parents or grandparents. You can't forget these things.

by Soha Bsat El Boustany, UNICEF, Lebanon

“If we don’t provide them with education, they’re lost. This is the generation that’s going to rebuild their country in a few years. They are the future. The children feel that they can’t dream, that they can’t hope. They are the future generation who are supposed to rebuild. The children feel their horizons and hopes are limited,” says Soha Bsat El Boustany of UNICEF in Lebanon.

In this film, children from across Syria who are now in Lebanon and Jordan reflect on what little they remember of the lives they left behind and the difficulties of receiving an education in their current situation.

Lilian, 11, and Roaa al-Assaf, 12 years old, live in Jordan. Their father was arrested and they have no news of him; and their mother died back in Syria. “I saw how they bombed people. War planes, snipers and missiles. I saw things I shouldn’t have seen during the bombings and the ‘troubles’,” Roaa al-Assaf says.

The girls remember the sound of bombs and power cuts pitching their school into darkness. Back at school after a period of trauma and unable to concentrate on their homework, the girls feel they are ‘safe and have a home’.

Badr El Thaher is also 12 but hasn’t attended school since leaving Syria. He works as a delivery boy to help his family make ends meet. He charges $1 for every delivery, using a heavy, oversized wheelbarrow for his transport.

“Sometimes I get home and feel my back will break,” he says, “I don’t have the strength to walk anymore”.

In Lebanon, Oday El Sino, 14 years old, is looking towards the future and a home he clearly misses. After the situation escalated in Syria, he ‘didn’t have a dream’ – but since enrolling in school in Saadnayel, things have changed. His dream is now “to be an engineer and learn how to rebuild my country”.

Even children who are lucky enough to find a place to enrol at school – be it in Lebanon or in Jordan – struggle to make the most out of their new lives. With a new curriculums to adjust to, segregation between Syrian and ‘local’ children and lack of funds to purchase school materials, fleeing the Syrian war appears to be just the beginning of ‘the troubles’ for Syria’s refugee children.

“In Syria we had books and stationary, but not here,” says Saad Ibrahim, 11, “We write everything the teacher says on our notepads because we can’t afford the books.”

Syria’s child refugees