Children still feel trauma of war;Briefing;International

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Palestinian children in Beirut, still trying to make sense of the conflict that killed so many in their families, are being helped with a photography project.

The project, part of Images and Testimonies of the Camps, set up by the Arab Resource Centre for Popular Arts (ARCPA), enables children to express their feelings through photographs.

Ismail, 13, holds up a picture he has taken of his home in the Shailla refugee camp in Beirut. "Taking pictures makes me feel free. It's a way to express things that are inside me,'' he says.

The children's words and pictures tell their own story. An old woman remembers the village she left in Palestine in 1948, while other photos show how Lebanon's post-war reconstruction is ignoring the Palestinian families whose homes will be demolished to make way for a new highway.

Today there are more than two million Palestinian refugees, all stateless, living in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Four generations have grown up in exile.

Half of the UN-run camp schools are so overcrowded that children are taught in shifts - up to 50 in a class. Teaching styles are authoritarian and beatings frequent. With so many severely traumatised children, teachers often cannot cope.

Before the age of 14, almost 40 per cent of Palestinian refugee girls and 25 per cent of boys have dropped out of school in Lebanon. Numbers going on to secondary and higher education are almost negligible.

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