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Nivine Choaib is a teacher in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Born into a Catholic Palestinian family, she grew up in Bethlehem with her parents and nine siblings. After high school, Nivine attended Bible College in Bethlehem majoring in theology, and is now studying to receive her master’s degree in Christian counseling. Her husband is Lebanese, and they have two children: Theodora,age 7, and John Paul, age 4.
Nivine is passionate about mission work and, in particular, ministry to girls and women. As both a partner of TSI and a missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), Nivine currently dedicates much of her life to educating Syrian students in Lebanon, while showing the love of Jesus for them through mentorship. We had the opportunity to interview Nivine about her teaching experience in Bekaa Valley, an area with the highest concentration of refugees in Lebanon.
Q: What has your experience been like teaching refugee children?
A: My experience was a little bit difficult at the beginning because their culture and environment are different from mine. All the refugees that we are working with come from the countryside, and their religious background affects [that difference] a lot. I’m now witnessing a change in the kids’ lives for the better, educationally and spiritually.
Q: How do you meet the unique educational needs of children experiencing displacement?
A: The majority of the children have never been to school before age 7 or 8. They didn’t have the chance to color or make a simple drawing.
One student, Imad, is a 12-year-old boy who had never been to school. He came to me wanting to join our school, but he was shy because he didn’t want to be in a class with younger kids. We accepted him and we put him in with the oldest class on a separate table. Every day, one of the teachers sat with him and taught him [individually]. Now Imad knows how to read and is making big progress in writing and math.
The majority of the children have never been to school before age 7 or 8. They didn’t have the chance to color or make a simple drawing.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of your job? And the most rewarding part?
A: The biggest challenge is [engaging] the parents. The kids are very smart and they [can] progress a lot. The most rewarding part is when I see my students’ progress educationally, and see them change for good. Spiritually, this gives me lot of encouragement when I see them memorizing verses and singing for the Lord. That gives me more energy to press forward.
Q: How do you go about introducing the teachings of Jesus to the children? Do you get any opposition to sharing this at school?
A: We share the Good News with them! Every morning before starting teaching we have a 20- minute devotion time were we share stories from the Bible with simple questions to help them understand what we are sharing about, and we sing some Arabic worship songs together.
On special occasions like Christmas and Easter we do special programs explaining what Christmas is all about. Sometimes we receive teams that do special programs for them for the whole day with lot of activities, and in everything we teach Christian values.
So far we haven’t had any opposition from the parents because from the time we started the tent school we met with them and told them that we will be sharing stories from the Bible and we will teach their kids Christian principals, and we have their permission [to do that].
Q: What are your personal reasons for teaching in a tent school?
A: My main reason [for teaching in the camp] is to share the gospel with Muslims. Of course, in the tent school I’m doing that with the kids, and I enjoy it. Also, having the school inside the camp opens other doors for me to reach out to women. I run a literacy program for women and we also have women’s ministry. By teaching in a tent school I’m able to be closer to the families, especially the women.
Q: What do you hope to communicate to your students?
A: It’s important always to encourage them that you can be in a high position, maybe you will be teachers, maybe you will be doctors, maybe you will be lawyers…so always I put that in their mind: when you go back home, don’t stop, continue, because one day you will be something.
Watch an interview with Nivine in our video release from Lebanon. Year-end giving to Tent Schools International will help support three teachers in Lebanon, including NIvine, for a full school year in Bekaa Valley. Give today.