BARJA, LEBANON – Anita Toutikian stands alone in a bare-bones classroom, huddled over a table covered in art supplies. She carefully arranges paint bottles and brushes, and sets out a sleeve of plastic cups for pallets.
In a few minutes, 22 students, five of whom are Syrian refugees, will burst into this room for a two-hour art therapy session. Toutikian, a working artist and a clinical psychologist, is there to help alleviate tensions between the refugees and their Lebanese classmates. According to the UN, at least 1.3 million Syrians refugees are currently living in Lebanon, which has led to a crisis-level strain on resources that impacts virtually every facet of society – and education is no different. This is the second time Toutikian has come to the Barja Technical School, a secondary school in this costal town 30 minutes south of Beirut. The first time the students all drew a figure – a firefighter, to be specific – individually. But today the students will be painting in groups.