Syrian boy, Mohamad Al Jounde, wins International Peace Prize 2017
Mohamad Al Jounde is a 16 year old refugee from Syria. He won the prestigious International Children’s Peace Prize of 2017, for building a school for hundreds of refugee children and providing them with education. He continues to fight for the right to an education for all refugee children.
Not many teenagers can say they founded a school, let alone be a refugee who experienced the horrors of war, and resided in a cramped camp in Lebanon.
He first founded the school when he was 12 years old, in the Bekaa Valley refugee camp in Lebanon. After experiencing the brutal and impersonal reality of the Syrian war, Mohamad and his family decided to flee and seek refuge in the nearby country, Lebanon. Once they had settled, the family quickly lost majority of their funds. Consequently, his father had to move to Sweden to financially support his family, as there weren’t any job opportunities in Lebanon.
Although Mohamad had lost his country, family, friends and eventually his father, he did not despair nor lose hope.
Like many other refugees, Mohamad was not able to go to school for the first 2 years in Lebanon. However, he never lost his motivation to help others that were in a more desperate situation. He empathised with the children, understood their circumstances, and this fuelled his will to fight for the rights of education for himself and other children.
Mohamad began by creating opportunities for the children in the refugee camps. By combining his passion for children, education and rebuilding communities, he started classes in a small camp for the children. So, at the age of 12, he began teaching them mathematics, English and his greatest passion, photography.
_” Every child has the right to education, to develop, to dream big and to enjoy life. Every child has the right to learn, has the right to try to go to school, so for me this is what I’m fighting for.” _Mohamad Al Jounde
What began in a tent, has now become a real building, with formal teachers, more than 200 children and a variety of subjects and grade levels!
Four years later, the world responded
Now 16 year old Mohamad, continues to fight for the rights to an education for all refugee children. In December 2017, he was announced the winner of the **International Children’s Peace Prize of 2017. **The award was presented by Malala Yousafzai, a children’s education rights activist, who stated at the event, “As Mohamed knows, Syria’s future depends on its children - and their future depends on education.” Along with this incredible recognition, he was granted a scholarship that gave him an opportunity to go to school, including earning a university degree, as well as living costs for his entire family.
Why we should be talking about Mohamad Al Jounde
Lliving in a developed country, people tend to take their easy life for granted. Growing up, basic necessities are always available, and education is considered a norm. However, the reality is that everything we have is an incredible blessing from God, that we must continuously be thankful for. It is important to remember that Syria’s civil war is almost in its 8th year and more than 2.5 million Syrian children are refugees. Most of these children have poor or no access to healthcare, nutritious food or education. If Mohamad Al Jounde can initiate change from a haphazard refugee camp, then imagine what we can do with the touch of a finger! We are capable of so much, and we have access to the best of technology and education. So, stay in school and fight for your education. Work hard and continue to be inspired by your passions, regardless of any obstacles you might face.
When Mohamad was asked what his long-term plans are, he replied “The future is unclear and uncontrollable, so I stopped worrying about that. I want to focus on what I can do now.