In the 1950s, the municipality of Ghazze in Lebanon granted a school building to Al-Makassed organisation. Since then, the school has been providing education to vulnerable Lebanese children. After the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Ghazze has been receiving a significant number of Syrian refugees. In response to this influx, and as part of their Relief and Educational Assistance (REA) project, the NGO Social Support Society (SSS) partnered with Al Makassed school to provide education for Syrian refugee students. In order to accommodate the new Syrian refugee children, Al Makassed school extended its operating hours, creating a second shift in the day for them to attend. The school now provides KG and primary education for 560 children.
The REA project implemented in Al-Makassed school represents an excellent example of a sustainable and resourceful education intervention. Rather than developing new infrastructure, SSS refurbished the existing school premises – rehabilitating sanitary facilities and replacing defective electrical leads and heating systems. They also equipped the school with tables, benches, blackboards and cupboards. By working within the existing infrastructure, SSS made improvements that benefited both the Lebanese children attending the morning shift, and the Syrian refugees who came after.
SSS also wanted to create an outdoor space that met the needs of the school children. Implementing a similarly resourceful approach, they contacted us to transform a neglected plot of land adjacent to the school into a playground. This playground aimed to provide a safe play space for all the different age groups attending the school, from toddlers to young children. As a place where both Lebanese and Syrian children could come together, the playground represented a space of social cohesion, a value strongly advocated by the school. SSS also envisioned that over the weekend and holidays, the space could be used as a public garden by the residents of Ghazze.
Building on strategies used in previous projects (IBTASEM and FURSA playgrounds), we designed the playground through a participatory process with students, teachers, school staff and the municipality. Implementing their ideas, the space offers places for structured play, free play, imaginative play and relaxation. It also provides a space for outdoor classes. In line with our values of supporting local businesses, the playground was constructed using local materials and labour.
The playground was well-received by the community who were grateful for the efforts of the volunteers that participated in its implementation. It gives a new character to the school as a lively and colourful space designed to be a permanent recreation and educational space for the town of Ghazze.