‘Bring me a teacher!’ – the Syrian girl who demanded an education
BMS World Mission supporters like you are helping get Syrian children back to school
Bombing, fighting and the threat of being kidnapped forced Shakala* and her family from their home in Syria. When they arrived in Lebanon, Shakala spent two years out of school because her mum was too scared to let her leave the house. But now, she goes to class and has dreams of becoming a detective. This letter she wrote to her teacher shows how much her life has changed.
Shakala and her family live in a single room in Lebanon. Your support is giving her hope of a future different from her past.
“My beloved teacher, despite the distance between us, your image is in my heart and in my mind and it will never leave.”
Shakala didn’t know if she would survive until nightfall most days when she and her family lived in Aleppo, Syria. Bombings, fighting and kidnappings were part of daily life. In all the chaos, Shakala herself was almost kidnapped. A man tried to carry her away, but her mother found her and took her back just in time. “It took her four years to get over that,” said Ashti*, Shakala’s mother. “She started having nightmares and crying at night saying, ‘They came for me.’”
Ashti had to lock her children in the house whenever she went out to buy food to stop people getting in and taking them. Eventually, they were forced to flee Syria and try and make a new life in Lebanon.
“As hard as the days might be on us… you are healing my wounds.”
Shakala and her family left Aleppo in 2012, when she was just eight years old. They were supposed to find a better life. But life in Lebanon was almost as hard as the one they’d left. When Shakala’s mother found work, she wasn’t accepted by the people she worked with. “They started saying bad things about me and I used to come home and cry,” she says. Only the hope of finding a better life for her children could convince her to stay. But Shakala and her siblings weren’t finding their new life any easier than their mum. Haunted by Shakala’s attempted kidnapping, Ashti kept her children in the house without education for two years. But Shakala was determined to go to school.
“From you I’ve learnt that everything is possible.”
“Bring me a teacher!” Shakala asked her mother over and over again. Her mother didn’t know what to do. She knew how important it was that her children had an education and that school would bring some stability to their lives. But she was terrified of letting her children go. For two years, Shakala asked for school and her mother had to say no. But then some neighbours told her about a BMS-supported learning centre, held at a nearby church. This was the chance that Shakala had been dreaming about. She started school. And she thrived. She loved it so much that she asked for school during the holidays, and the church was able to set up camps for the children to go to. Her teachers didn’t just teach her about maths and English, but about commitment and working hard. Things were starting to look up for Shakala. But her future was still uncertain.
“You’ve taught me a lot about perseverance and sacrifice.”
From Shakala’s letter (pictured) you might think that she was leaving school. The reality is that she knows it’s likely she will leave the area soon and have to say goodbye to her beloved teachers forever. Her letter shows how uncertain her life still is. Her father and extended family are still in Syria, but if Shakala were to go back there, she might be forced to abandon her education and marry her cousin. She is 14 years old. Her mum doesn’t want that to happen: “I want her to study and pursue her dreams,” she says.
“I will go with my head up to face the world.”
Shakala is determined to achieve her dreams. “She wants to continue studying and travel abroad and become a detective,” says Ashti. Shakala’s letter shows how much her school means to her. They’ve taught her to believe in herself. Because of Christians like you across the UK, this learning centre can employ more teachers to inspire children every day. Your support is bringing stability back into the life of a child who would otherwise have been forgotten. Your support has allowed her to have dreams and has given her the ability to make them a reality. But there are still children that need help.
“I want to thank you a lot for not forgetting us,” says Ashti. “I wish that you would continue and maybe make the projects bigger because there are some students that are not registered and there’s no place for them.” With your continued support the learning centre can be expanded. And more forgotten children can be found again.
"You will always be my teacher, the one that I love, and I will never forget what you’ve done for me.”
For peace and justice in Syria.
That all the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, and across the world, receive education, and that they will be as passionate about learning as Shakala is.
For the teachers at the learning centre in Lebanon. Pray that they know that the hard work they are doing has an amazing impact on the children they teach.
That the learning centre will be able to expand and that more teachers will be trained so that they will be able to accept all the children that come to them and give them the education they deserve.
Pictured | Shakala's beautifully written thank you letter to her teacher.
This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission