Author: Sandra Chahine
Project Manager, CARE Lebanon.
Read the original case study: “Learning from the Hopeful: Positive Pathways to Education in Lebanon"
During the first year of the project, workshops were held with the selected positive deviant girls, during which the girls designed the prototype activities and strategies for Phase III of the project.
A total of 65 of the selected positive deviant girls (28 Syrian and 37 Lebanese) attended capacity building workshops on leadership skills, goal setting, and effective communication. Of the attendees, 29 girls (11 Syrian and 18 Lebanese) committed to serve as peer mentors during Phase III of the project.
Positive deviants were identified as those girls who overcame significant challenges or adversity to continue their education. Common challenges generally clustered under three main categories: poor psycho-social support, lack of community engagement, and difficulty in academic achievement. Financial instability and social norms were significant factors in the majority of girls not staying in school. Often, girls are pressured to leave school to help with household chores or take care of siblings or other family members. Others are getting married as girls brides to alleviate family’s financial woes..
The positive deviant girls are not an exception to these pressures or challenges, but rather they show determination to continue their high school education while performing household duties or despite their health problems. These girls came up with creative solutions like illustrating lesson notes, studying in front of the mirror, etc. to improve their school performance. Some also reported relying on Internet resources like Google Translate and YouTube to improve their understanding of school materials.
As refugees, many of the Syrian girls faced additional challenges when registering in high schools for different reasons, including lack of identification papers. In response, one mother formed a coalition with some girls to communicate with the Minister of Education and started a petition to get Syrian girls enrolled in a public high school in Tripoli.
During the workshops the girls were very excited to learn about each other, sharing their challenges and discussing ways to overcome their common issues. Through several group activities, the girls designed the prototypes inspired by the solutions they have adopted to stay in school. The prototypes address the common challenges girls face towards their enrollment in high schools clustered under three main components: (1) Psychosocial Support (PSS) by building girls agencies through life skills, PSS trainings and mentorship sessions conducted by the PD girls, (2) Community engagement through positive parenting sessions and community events targeting parents, neighbors, teachers and principals, (3) Academic through homework support delivered on a daily basis to the non-PD girls. These prototypes were fine-tuned by CARE and shared with AUB.
This project helped to resolve stereotypes and tensions, building friendship networks between Syrian and Lebanese girls who, despite different nationalities, had too much in common not to be friends. The girls wrote about their experience on the CARE in Lebanon social media account in Arabic saying:
“Despite our different personalities, despite our different traditions, despite our different religions, despite the distances between us, we will remain one voice, aiming for one goal. Together, we gather under the roof of the mother who brought us and sought to help us, we will remain ONE family.”
Some of the girls involved in the project were from two areas with recurrent conflict between Sunni Muslim residents of Tebbaneh and Alawite Muslim residents of Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods. The communities are not only divided along sectarian lines, but also by their opposition to or support of the Alawite-led Syrian government. Fortunately, the girls overcame sectarian divides and became very good friends and mentors for other girls regardless of their different backgrounds.
Having one Syrian and one Lebanese freshly graduated from university recruited as Community Mobilizers served as role modeling during their field work with the girls and their parents.
Additionally, one of the positive deviant girls was born with one hand and faced school bullying and harassment from the community. As such, the CARE team designed the activities in such a way that she could participate equally to the project, which broke the stigma around disabled people. This girl has inspired the rest of the girls with her strong personality and she has gained many new friends throughout the project period. “Now, I feel more comfortable with my entourage and my family. Now I can communicate better with my parents,” she said.
After receiving the mentorship training from CARE, the PD girls are currently serving as mentors/role models to the non-PDs who they named “Champions”. Champions are girls who have dropped out from school after failing the official exam in grade 9 and CARE with the PDs succeeded to convince them continue their education and repeat their school year with the support provided through this project
Changes in the mothers/daughters relationships are seen as stated by one girl:
“ My mom is spending more time with me now, what have you done to her?”.
Another said: “This is the first time I go out and spend quality time with my parent, my mom really changed the way she speaks to me”,
In the near future PD girls will also participate in an interactive theater that will be presented at the end of the project during a graduation ceremony for all the girls participating in the project. However, it is too soon to analyze the improvement since the students started mid-October.
To solve the financial challenges faced by the girls, our partner Teach for Lebanon will provide a tutoring TOT for the PD girls who will replicate the learned skills to the Champions.