Cash for Education Keeps Refugee Students in School

Lebanon, October 17, 2018

Relief International believes in giving vulnerable families what they need most.

RI’s Cash for Education Program in Lebanon gives Syrian refugee families a stipend of $52 per month for each child enrolled in the program. The money can be used any way they want, on one condition: the children stay in school and participate in RI’s homework support program, which runs throughout the school year, ensures retention, and improves academic performance. Supported by the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the program currently reaches some 500 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugee children in the Bekaa Valley who are enrolled in school but at high risk of dropping out.

"Cash is a really important tool for Relief International, says Valerie Rowles, RI's Country Director in Lebanon. "It gets lots of different jobs done at once: it meets peoples' needs. It gives them the dignity of choice. And it helps contribute to the local economy. It really allows us to offer the best solution for each individual situation."


Our cash assistance is delivered using debit cards, mobile phones, or vouchers depending on what the families want to use. The program allows families to pay rent, buy food, send children to school, or whatever their priorities are. This in turn helps stimulate the local economy as money is cycled back into the community. For the individual, they can find autonomy by choosing their own solutions for their problems. It allows them to have power of choice within the crisis.

Skeptics of cash-based programs sometimes question whether families will use the money to indulge vices. On the contrary, more than a dozen studies have shown that families who receive cash assistance often buy less alcohol and tobacco, and their overall welfare improves. In addition to Lebanon, RI has used cash assistance to help families dealing with famine, healthcare services, legal services, and vocational training expenses, and the aftermath of natural disasters in countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, Turkey, and Yemen.


Joury Al Yehyia

In Lebanon, the Cash for Education program allows children to have a safe environment where they can learn.

“I wish Relief International’s homework support would continue over the summer,” says 13-year-old Joury Al Yehyia.

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Joury, wearing a green scarf, is a beneficiary of the program.

Joury fled Syria with her family four years ago and now lives in Lebanon’s rural Bekaa Valley. Before her family enrolled with RI’s program, Joury was failing 7th grade. Now, with our weekly tutoring support, Joury is at the top of her class and standing out in her science and math which are her favorite subjects. With the help of the program to support her academic studies, she has high aspirations for her future.

“I want to be a pediatrician,” she says. “I want to help sick children.”  

Joury’s younger siblings, Iman and Ahmed, are also enrolled in the program. Eleven-year-old Iman dreams of being a dentist. Ahmed, who is in second grade, wants to be an astronaut.

“I want to go to Mars to discover and explore,” says Ahmed, who loves math and Arabic language classes.

The family receives a total of $156 from Relief International each month, which they use to pay for transportation to school and part of their rent. The cash helps fuel the children’s dreams and their mother’s hopes.

“I’m hoping and praying they will get a good quality education so that they can go back to Syria and go to university,” says their mom, Ghada.  “Then we can say that at least one good thing came out of being in Lebanon.”


Fayez and Zahra El Mohamad

Fayez El Mohamad, his wife Zahra, and their five children fled to Lebanon early in Syria’s civil war, when an overnight raid destroyed all but one home in the village — theirs.

“I went to bed in a village, I woke up in ashes,” Fayez says. “Everyone was dead.”

RI provides $175 per month to the seven-person family with no conditions. With the cash assistance, the Mohamads pay the $50 rent plus electricity fees, and buy cleaning supplies, diapers for their 1-year-old daughter, and fresh fruits and vegetables that are not part of food aid. Fayez also covers the rent for his missing brother’s wife and four daughters, who live a few tents down.

They have also seen a dramatic change in their living conditions. Before RI began providing cash assistance to the Mohamads, their home was one room, composed of a flimsy wood frame and plastic sheeting distributed by refugee agencies. Sturdy planks now reinforce the walls and heavy-gauge tarpaulin provides better cover.


The view from the El Mohamad’s tent.

But the money only goes so far. Fayez, who was a janitor in Aleppo, has been unable to work because of a war-related injury that prevents him from doing any of the jobs available to him, which is mostly construction. He cannot read or write, making it even harder to get work. He also needs to pay for transportation to a doctor’s office for Zahra, who is four months pregnant.


Fayez talks about how RI's cash assistance has improved his family's well-being.

“I would like to work,” he says. “I would feel useful. Not like sitting around all day doing nothing.”

For now, the children are in school, Fayez says, and they almost have enough money to get by. However, they would like to relocate to a place with better schools and where they can have a real home, not a tent. Someplace, he says, like Syria.

“The only thing we think about is whether the war will end,” he says. “Will we have a chance to go back to our life? Your country is the best place in the world for you.”


                                                                                      U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration