In the town of Saadnayel, located in the beautiful and fertile Bekaa Valley, the
community farm of Buzuruna Juzuruna hosts a learning garden for the
children from the surrounding community. Here, the children can engage in active learning about agriculture, food sovereignty, and social and
environmental justice, among other topics. They can reflect and discuss
collectively about society, and develop necessary life skills needed for their
active role as citizens in the community, country and world around them.
A challenged public education sector
The Bekaa Valley hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with the town of Saadnayel having one of the highest concentration rates of refugees in the whole region. Of the 340.000 registered Syrian refugees in the Bekaa, 56.5% are children under the age of 18. Syrian children in the area have poor access to education with only 54% of them being enrolled in primary and secondary schools.
The Syrian refugee crisis as well as the COVID-19 pandemic have left the public education sector in Lebanon under strain. High saturation classes, little space for meeting the students’ varying education levels, backgrounds and needs, and an inability to cope with online classes, are only some of the challenges that the public schools are facing. Meanwhile, the informal educational centers struggle to meet the need of educational support coming from this pressure. This crisis is magnified in Saadnayel.
A prime space for integrative learning
In 2018, the learning garden in Saadnayel was initiated as a pilot project by Buzuruna Juzuruna, Graines et Cinéma and Zaher. Throughout the project season, Buzuruna Juzuruna conducted weekly workshops for the children and youth lacking educational opportunities in the surrounding area.
The pilot project proved to be successful as a prime space for integrative learning and a source of high quality learning experiences for the children from the community. High attendance, engagement and interest in the learning activities paved the way for a fruitful project season with important insights being made.
As of October 2021, the weekly learning garden workshops are yet again running at the learning garden in Saadnayel. In a collaborative effort between Zaher and the two Lebanese NGOs, Jibal and Buzuruna Juzuruna, insights and experiences from the pilot project have been used to set up a new project, ‘GROW Lebanon’.
The aim is to build capacity in the existing learning garden in Saadnayel and a new learning garden in the city of Zgharta in Northern Lebanon – an area demographically similar to that of Saadnayel.
Building a bridge between agricultural academia and artistic creativity
Every Friday throughout the season, a group of Syrian children from the Saadnayel community join the learning garden workshops and engage in active learning. They create social connections, gain a sense of place, enjoy nature, reflect collectively about society, and develop necessary life skills for their active role as citizens in the community, country and world around them.
Reem is part of the Lebanese community group, Zayraqoun and is one of the local trainers at the learning garden in Buzuruna Juzuruna. Here, she uses her passion for creative expression to facilitate an alternative way of learning which builds a bridge
between agricultural academia and artistic creativity.
Reem enjoys being in the presence of the children and learning from them. “We get to offer each other different lenses in which to look at things, and to me this exchange is necessary for the development of a tighter growing community in which diversity is cherished just as nature’s diversity is”, she says.