25 March, 2021
Students from different schools and social backgrounds reflect on what makes a good citizen as part of the “Educating for Peace” project in Lebanon

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On February 26, 2021 and in the framework of the «Educating for Peace » Project in Lebanon, funded by the Mondo Unito Foundation, 15 students from Paradis D´Enfants school along with 10 students from Byakout public school, aged between 11 & 12 years old and coming from different social and religious background, were all asked the same question: «What makes a good citizen?»

During one hour and a half, all their answers had one thing in common: Acceptance of others, living all together and helping the victims of the Beirut explosion by providing them with food, clothes and medication.

“This flower is sick because she lives in an unhealthy environment, and does not have water, but she did not give up like her friends, she faced the obstacles and fighted her way to a healthier and better environment”. (Mary 12 years old student from Byakout public school after viewing a short video about a dying flower striving to survive)

Their words come as a rejection to the reality they are living, and a dream about « another » Lebanon, a Lebanon where corruption and lack of justice are replaced with kindness and humanity.

Through their innocence, they imagine more harmony, making them use the same word in all of their interventions; “TOGETHER”; a word that politicians chose to replace with “division”, a better option for political power.

“We are not getting along, and we can´t be a community unless we start caring about each other” (Nour, 11 year old girl from Paradis D’Enfants school when asked to describe her community).

In a country built on confessionalism and dictated by political party affiliations, none of the students mentioned religion, even though the majority of the students of Paradis D´enfants are Christians and the majority of the students coming from Byakout public school are Muslims, they all saw this session as an opportunity to get to know each other, get out of their comfort zone and make new friends.

They saw each other as citizens having the most important thing in common: Their beloved country LEBANON.

The impact on the sessions on the students was amazing.

They have been home since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. One year ago, they have been suddenly deprived of their daily routine, friends, sports activities and school.

“Our society has changed because everything around us is changing so fast, everything is becoming online, we talk to our friends, teachers and family through a screen, and we are not allowed to hug and kiss each other anymore. It is a very difficult situation” (Ralph, 12 years old boy from Paradis D’Enfants School)

This sudden lifestyle change has strongly affected their mental health, resulting in repressed feelings, stress and anger that need to be urgently addressed.

These online sessions have become an important meeting and expression platform for them, by connecting with their teachers and colleagues and meeting new faces they get a small part of their old life back.