Fifteen-year-old Randa Mando missed part of her education when she had to flee Syria for a new life in Lebanon. Now back at school, she’s enjoying learning again – and has big, inspiring plans for her future.

Originally, I come from Homs, in Syria, where our family life was stable and happy, and our financial and social status was really good. But then the war started. Our house was located in the center of the city where violent events were excessive. At times, all I could hear was the sound of explosions. Before the war, I was going to school - but then it became too dangerous to leave the house because of the threat of kidnapping and bombings. So in 2012, when I was nine, my parents took the decision to leave Syria and take me to Lebanon, settling in Bakhaoun in the north of the country.

My life is very different now. Life for refugees in Lebanon is not always easy, however I have been lucky. I missed a year of school because of the upheaval, but now I'm back in full time education and doing well. When I was 11, I sat - and passed - an entrance exam to enroll at the Dr. Wadeh El Samad public school (Teach For Lebanon, a member association of the global Teach For All network, has currently placed 49 full-time teaching participants, or "fellows," at 28 schools throughout the country). At first I found the curriculum difficult, particularly because everything we do is in English! These days, however, my English is good and I really enjoy my lessons. There are 27 of us in the class, studying Arabic, English, math, biology, physics, chemistry, geography, civics, history and religion. The scientific subjects are my favorites, though, because I prefer to work with materials that need analysis - and I enjoy critical thinking. We study for three hours in the morning, and then have a break when I have something to eat and talk to my friends. Then it's back to class for another three hours of study before home time.

For me, the best thing about going to school is the opportunity to develop my skills and learn. On the other hand, I also love seeing my school friends and spending time with them. When I joined the school, I was given a great welcome by the majority of the students and, after getting to know each other, we became friends. My teachers are also very friendly. We feel so comfortable in their sessions and we learn a lot from them. When I think about the people who inspire me, a big role model is Ms. Lama Al Ayoubi, who is also a Teach For Lebanon fellow. She has such a good heart and loves helping people. She's very human and I admire her smartness.

Engineering the future

Outside of school I love running, swimming and shopping, mainly for clothes. My life is beautiful and comfortable again, yet I always feel sad because of the war in my country, and I miss my two brothers who migrated to Europe. My dream now is to focus on scientific subjects so I can become a civil engineer. I want to go to high school and then to university - and, ultimately, use my education to help rebuild my country when the war ends, and help those in need. — As told to Tony Greenway

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Published: April 2018

Images: private