Earlier this year, Bishopstrow College converted its preparation-for-boarding programmes to online delivery, as a result of the lockdown, with Bishopstrow Online launched at the start of Term 3 on March 30. Soon after this date, we were approached by Richard Verity, a Partner at McKinsey & Co. Richard had recently returned to McKinsey, having taken a sabbatical from the Firm, during which he had set-up the Shatila Cricket Club for Syrian refugees in the Shatila Camp in Beirut, Lebanon. Richard was keen to provide educational opportunities for some of the Syrian children, above and beyond the education being offered by the Alsama Teenage Centre within Shatila. Fortunately, and as a result of our new online provision, we were able to help. Here is the story so far:
Aseel (15), Hadeel (14) and Lujain (14) are three international students attending the summer term (Term 4) at Bishopstrow College. Last week all three girls were awarded Bishopstrow’s ‘Student of the Week’ award for demonstrating the College’s 5 virtues, namely: being kind, polite, organized, hardworking and a team player.
Each morning the girls sign into their virtual classrooms where they meet the other students, from Russia, China, Mexico and Kazakhstan. The girls are well liked. They love studying, they are smart and witty; and they enjoy a good joke, just like all the other teenagers on the course.
Yet, Aseel, Hadeel and Lujain’s lives couldn’t be more different from their fellow students’ backgrounds. The girls are Syrian refugees. They live in the Shatila Camp in Beirut, Lebanon, where they share one square kilometre with 40,000 other Palestinian and Syrian displaced people. They live in tiny damp apartments with eight to ten people. The water that comes through the mains is salt water straight from the sea. Their parents have no right to work. The girls know what it feels like to go hungry to bed.
But these girls are determined to get the best education the world can offer them. They all want to become doctors, so they can help their country people back home in Syria. Not only do they submit homework on time, they also happily complete any extra work offered to them; and sometimes Bishopstrow teachers receive queries and questions from them till late into the evening.
But that’s not all. A couple of weeks ago they stunned their teachers and fellow students with a presentation about cricket. Aseel, Hadeel and Lujain belong to the first female cricket team in Lebanon. They are playing six hours a week, all year round.
Back in Shatila, the girls are students of the Alsama Teenage Centre. It’s the only education facility for teenagers in the camp. Alsama also runs cricket camps in various refugee camps and schools across Lebanon.
On 4 August, in the evening a massive explosion in the Beirut harbour area left huge parts of the Lebanese capital in ruins. The girls and their families escaped unharmed. But they couldn’t sleep all night. They were too frightened. The explosion reminded them of the war back in Syria.
The next morning at 8.00am, Aseel, Hadeel and Lujain turned up to their classes on time. ‘We won’t let this chance slip.’ Aseel explained. ‘We know we have to work harder than a lot of students. And we will.’
Aseel, Hadeel and Lujain are grateful to Bishopstrow College for giving them a full scholarship to pursue their studies.
Alsama is currently raising funds for Syrian refugees like Aseel, Hadeel and Lujain whose families have been affected by the consequence of the Beirut explosion. For further details, please visit: