Author Bio

Zeena Zakharia is Assistant Professor of International Education Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park. Her research examines education in contexts of conflict and advances a critical approach to refugee studies in the Middle East. These interests stem from over two decades of educational research, teaching, and school leadership in war-affected contexts.


Growing attention to longstanding issues linked to racism and coloniality in humanitarian assistance has impelled important conversations about power inequities in global education spaces and their related scholarly fields. This paper contributes to these conversations by advancing an anticolonial discursive framework for rights-based interventions in and through education. Drawing on a three-year case study of one faith-based school in Lebanon, this paper explores how one ordinary school in a refugee hostile transit country secured and protected the right to education for refugee children from Syria, within a significant broader context of multiple compounding crises. The notion of “ordinary solidarities” is used to describe how this refugee education response sustained engagement in learning, despite tremendous community opposition and against a deteriorating sociopolitical, economic, and pandemic backdrop. Through organic responsiveness, upholding of equitable relationships, and the principles of inclusion and anti-discrimination, ordinary solidarity embodies an anticolonial mandate for rights-based interventions and demands a shift in orientation from saviorism to care. By intertwining humanitarian discourse and one school’s practices, the paper draws out implications for ongoing efforts to reconfigure humanitarian relations and structures.

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