A teacher gives a lesson to Syrian refugee children at the Omar Zeinne Public School in Beirut, Monday, March 17, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Looking at this classroom energy – typically reserved for recess or weekends – one would think that this is the most exciting school in the world, and for the Syrian children sitting in the sixth-floor classroom of the Omar Zeinne public school in Tariq al-Jadideh, it just might be.They are part of more than 27,000 Syrian school-aged children benefitting from a new afternoon shift in almost 80 Lebanese public schools that began in January, a system designed to capitalize on the classrooms across the country that lie empty after normal school hours finish around 2 p.m. For many Syrian children, it is an opportunity to sink once more into the education, structure and camaraderie they had lacked for the past couple of years. The Syrian conflict, now in its fourth year, has created more than 1 million child refugees throughout the region, including more than 300,000 school-aged children registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.At the Omar Zeinne school, the morning sessions accommodate 400 Syrian students in addition to 200 Lebanese. The afternoon shift, which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., has 350 students – all Syrian.
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