Jusoor has two schools in the Bekaa valley. Jeb Jannine (JJ) has been our main base until now, and is the one which most resembles a standard school, with classrooms, a library, a play area, toilets… So it came as a bit of a shock to discover that it had originally been a paint factory, set in the middle of some lush green fields, acquired and converted by Jusoor.
It is pretty basic, with bare concrete floors, and (at least at this stage, waiting for a new school year to begin) without much in the way of decoration, beyond some rather charming paintings by the children, painted directly onto the walls. And the classrooms are equipped with standard schoolroom furniture – desks and chairs. Jusoor does receive some funding, and clearly spends those funds with care and discretion.
Today we also visited the other school, Jarrahieye (J), rather smaller, and situated on the edge of one of the six refugee camps in the area. Jusoor was able to rent a small plot, and built the school from scratch, initially housed in tents, progressing to more permanent structures with solid concrete floors, hardboard walls, proper doors and windows, electric lights and fans. It is clean and tidy, but terribly cramped – there is a tiny play area, the ground is dusty gravel, and crucially it has no shade or shelter, so is unusable for parts of the year (summer and winter).
We have yet to see JJ and J with that vital ingredient for any school – children – but from our experiences so far, the schools are clearly oases of security and learning.