Refugees struggle to find space for sport in Lebanon

5 October 2012

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee children and young people have restricted access to the public school system. As a result, UNRWA in Lebanon provides not only primary education but also secondary education and, to a lesser extent, supports access to university education through specific donor funding. Within this context, there is little room for sports and recreational activities for Palestine refugees.

One teacher decided to do something about it.

Teacher Khoder makes space for sport in Lebanon

As a student, Khoder Dannan, never thought that one day he would be teaching others. But years later, the 26-year old Palestine refugee graduated from the teacher training course in UNRWA’s vocational centre and began work as a sports teacher at the Agency’s Haifa School in Beirut.

Playground only space for sports

In Lebanon, nearly 500,000 Palestine refugees live in 12 overcrowded refugee camps. As a result, children often lack space to play in their neighborhoods; school is one of the only spaces where they are able to exercise and have fun.

“The only place we have enough space to play is at our school’s playground”, says ten-year-old Mohammad.

With this in mind, Khoder has fought hard to make sports a bigger part of the students’ activities at the school, introducing handball, basketball, and ping pong activities alongside the old favourite, football.

Newly-organised teams in these sports have been extremely successful, says Khoder.

“Last year, we competed with students from 39 Lebanese schools in a local sports tournament, and we won first prize in football!”.

Values through sport

During his first year as a teacher, Khoder was surprised to see only boys taking part in sports, and resolved to include more girls and students with disabilities. It was part of his personal mission to teach social values through sports, he explained.

“During my last three years as a teacher, I tried to empower children through sports and leadership training.

“My students acquire a high sense of team spirit and discipline, making it easier for them to achieve their goals.”

Khoder is proud of his students, and still gets visits from old pupils who have graduated.

“It’s true that I’m the teacher, but my students are also my teachers. I’ve learned so much from them”, he says.

“The world of children is enriching and inspiring.”