In 2016, My Voice-My School online virtual exchanges doubled from the previous year. The expanded program involved young people in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria partnering with peers in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, USA and Sweden. We followed them in their journey as they developed as youth advocates for a quality education.

Meet some of the students who are participating in 2016

In Gaza, Amina faces many challenges to her education, from overcrowded classrooms to regular electricity cuts, which prevent her from studying after school. Nonetheless, she stays strong and strives to fulfil her ambitions in life. She hopes to become a veterinarian one day.
Roos lives in Amsterdam and, as a typical Dutch girl, she bikes everywhere. For her, school should be a place where kids feel safe and free to be who they are. Her dream in life is to inspire people to do good things and to be kind to one another.

Saleem is internally displaced by the conflict in Syria. He lives in Latakia with his mother, three brothers and pet parrot Neddo. He lost his father and home in the crisis. His favorite part of school is the psychosocial support services, which bring him respite. He loves the beach and his friends. Finn wants to be a film director. He lives in Berlin with his mother and two sisters and he studies at the Nelson Mandela School, where he is an active member of the school parliament. Finn and his friends believe that a quality education is the key to success and that every child should have access to it.
After fleeing the war in Syria, Rama moved to Ein El Hilweh Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon with her parents and three younger siblings. For her, education means the chance to fulfil your dreams. Inspired by the first woman in space, Rama wants to become an astronaut to explore the mysteries of the universe.

Matilda lives in Helsingborg, Sweden with her family. At 13, she has a big passion for science and would love to be a scientist. Together with her friends at school, she is involved in community service. This helps her understand that education means more than learning about facts: it forges bonds with the rest of the society.

Highlights from students’ advocacy campaigns

Palestine Institute for Boys, Damascus & Consett Academy, Durham, UK

“Although we live in this crisis, we have the will to change the future”, said Qusai from Damascus. For the first time, Qusai and his peers met with their school principal to discuss their ideas on improving the learning environment at their school.

In the UK, Daniel and his classmates campaigned for more local businesses to get involved in their classes. They also successfully advocated to their school administration to allow more dress code flexibility when temperatures rise in the early summer.

Al-Shajara/Al-Ramleh School, Homs, Syria & Devonport High School for Boys, Plymouth, UK

Students in Homs successfully advocated with their school principal for providing additional psycho-social support sessions, and increasing breaks between classes.

Oliver and his peers in Devonport proposed to their school leadership to include in the curricula classes that would help them connect with the work environment from early on.

“The project showed me how independent so many people are and that we have to take education to our own hands”, said Oliver from Plymouth.

El Kheirieh School, Latakia, Syria & Nelson Mandela School in Berlin, Germany

In Latakia, Qamar and her peers worked with the school’s administration to improve school environment. They planted new trees and plants, decorated classroom walls and hallways, and started a school orchestra.

Julius in Berlin said, “It was good talking to people in Syria, face to face. It was good to actually hear from them, rather than about them in the news, and hear about what it’s like in Syria and what it’s like going to school there.”

My Voice My School inspired Julius and his classmates to create awareness about Quality Education at their school. They presented the project during a school assembly and through a publishing an article and photos in the school’s newsletter and album.

Rimal Girls Prep School, Gaza & Berlage Lyceum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“My Voice-My School made us feel that we matter to the world and we can make a change.”, said Mariam in Gaza. The project helped the girls in Gaza realize that they wanted to learn more about other cultures. As a result, with help from their teachers, they created a school festival celebrating world costumes and traditions and a cultural calendar with images from different countries, including The Netherlands.

“This project made me realise that students can be just as much of a catalyst for change as teachers can.”, said Alex in Amsterdam. His colleagues were inspired to advance to their school leadership different ideas for improving education, including: peer-reviewed teacher training, introducing e-books and updated classroom resources, and promoting scholarship opportunities for disadvantaged students.

Jalloud Prep School for Girls, Burh Barajneh, Lebanon & George Mason High School, Falls Church, VA, USA

“My Voice-My School helped me become an advocate as I told people overseas about how I want to solve some of the education issues I face.”, said Assile from the Burj Barajneh camp in Lebanon. Along with her classmates, she advocated for more psychological support, a bigger and greener playground and a stage for students to perform plays.

The students in the USA proposed annual counselling sessions to deal with students’ stress during exam periods and advocated for improving their school environment. This was their first presentation in front of the principal and both the students and their teacher were optimistic about the outcomes.

“What I’ve learned most from this project is the idea that we’re so similar in so many ways and we are stronger when we’re united.”, said Keira from George Mason High School in Virginia.

Marj Ben Amer School, Ein El-Hilweh, Lebanon & International School of Helsingborg, Sweden

Students in Lebanon conducted research in three UNRWA schools and around their neighbourhoods to discover that more can be done to improve access to pre-school education. They engaged their school parliaments and gave away brochures on the topic. The girls visited the poorest families in the camp and encouraged parents to send their children to pre-school. Another group started sorting waste and planting more plants in the school yard.

In spite of violent conflicts in the Ein El Hilweh camp interrupting their classes, the girls were happy to go back to school after the tensions were alleviated. They impressed their peers in Sweden with their drive to study. “Whatever happens, nothing is going to prevent us from learning.”, said Aya in Ein El-Hilweh.

Tess and her colleagues in Helsingborg focused on bringing even more positive thinking in their school and popularising the psychological counselling sessions among their schoolmates with mental health issues.

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