By Camille Melki
In three separate conversations this week, I got the chance to discuss value-based education with local partners. All of us want to see children in classrooms, playgrounds, and after-school activities. But instead, kids living in and learning from the streets is becoming a norm. In a country like Lebanon, where more than half of the population lives under the poverty line, proper education becomes a gift for only a few. With a faltering economy and continued political tension, most public schools did not open this year. Private schools are equally struggling. On average, students received only 65 days of learning! This is the fourth consecutive year where students are not receiving a solid education. Parents are having to choose between feeding their kids or educating them. If this continues, Lebanon’s future is bleak. Once considered the educational haven of the Middle East, Lebanon can no longer provide safe and sound education to the masses.
Street education is taking over classroom education. An unruly, angry, and disenfranchised generation is left to be solely influenced by gangs, para-military groups, and fanatic political parties. The problems of today will soon become a threat to society’s wellbeing and the potential rebound from its current challenges. It is not enough to put kids back in classrooms; what is important is that those kids are taught basic life values such as integrity, honesty, peace, love, respect, responsibility, forgiveness…
At Heart for Lebanon we take value-based education very seriously. All 975 students in our classrooms and scholarship program are given the opportunity to learn in a safe and well-structured academic environment. Our focus is to provide the best educational experience possible for each child; be it a refugee or a Lebanese student. But education doesn’t end with learning languages, math and science. At Heart for Lebanon, every lesson is woven with life-learning experiences to help raise a sincere, kind, and respectful child. Our Bible-based character traits use scripture to emphasize the value of honesty, forgiveness, generosity, loving others, caring for those in needs… to name a few. Our teachers look at every opportunity to emphasize those traits in the classroom, afternoon activities, on the playground, and in chapel hour.
Our goal is to raise a new generation of students desiring to make a positive impact everywhere they go. For that reason, value-based education is not only offered in our schools but it is a life-style activity offered in all our programs: Bible clubs, art clubs, sports, Hope on Wheels, etc. Our students learn from the Bible how to evaluate and discuss life values that are proper and constructive. They learn from their teachers who exemplify those values and from one another as they try their best to live up to what they have learned. Every week, hundreds of children are exposed to value-based, Bible focused character traits. They learn those traits in serious settings as well as in fun and joyful activities.
We can sit and watch a demoralizing culture or we can try to make a difference in society. We have chosen the latter. I am confident that the classroom education we provide gives our students a solid base for the future. But I am more confident that the value-based experiences they encounter will make them better citizens of this world; men and women who understand and live out a life of integrity. My prayer is that the Jesus stories they hear and the Bible verses they learn will shape them to become God followers; disciples and disciple makers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to join us in providing a value-based education to refugee and local students in Lebanon. Your fervent prayers and generous contributions make a great impact today and a positive difference for eternity. Together we are leading students (their families and society) out of despair to hope in Christ alone!