Members of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition announced pledges to support the educational recovery in Lebanon following the deadly explosion that rocked the city of Beirut last month, during an emergency virtual meeting on 1 September 2020.
Over 160 schools were damaged in the 8 August blast, affecting at least 85,000 students. COVID-19 cases have soared since the explosion, placing new strains on a society and education system already coping with overlapping financial, health, and infrastructural crises.
Opening the meeting attended by over 80 Coalition members, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini said: “We must showcase the power of the Global Education Coalition to bring solutions and solidarity to Lebanon. UNESCO is committed to lead this process.”
“We appreciate UNESCO’s support in coordinating the emergency effort,” said Dr Tarek Majzoub, Minister of education of Lebanon. “This is a call for immediate action. We need to ensure learning, especially for the most vulnerable, this effort has to benefit all learners in Lebanon.”
Fadi Yarak, Director-General of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, underlined how this disaster struck at a challenging time in Lebanon, which is already facing an economic, social, and the COVID-19 crisis. “These are tough times for us but we are optimistic, thanks to the support for Lebanon of UNESCO and this amazing group of Coalition members,” he said.
The commitments span rehabilitation of damaged schools, technical assistance to teachers, access to distance learning platforms, the provision of content for distance learning, and support to higher education.
Among the commitments by members of the Global Education Coalition:
- Education Above All: 10 million US$ to support the reconstruction of schools and universities.
- IBM: financial support to organizations providing relief on the ground and access to its digital skills platform.
- Microsoft: support to teacher professional development and distance learning, and access to online training resources.
- Uber: 5,000 rides to partner organizations as part of ongoing community relief efforts, as well as support to the delivery of education kits for school students affected by the explosion.
- Maskott-Tactileo: deployment of a learning management system in open access mode to support student learning and teacher training for an extended period of 18 months.
- Pix: access to online public service platforms to assess, improve and certify learners and teachers’ digital skills.
- Praekelt: development of the technology behind an emergency WhatsApp communication line on the current situation and return to school.
The Age of Learning Foundation, World Education, Curious Learning, Eidos Global, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and Curious Learning are among the other Global Coalition members that are stepping up their support to ensure learning continuity.
These pledges follow UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay’s launch of an international fundraising appeal, Li Beirut (For Beirut in Arabic), to support the rehabilitation of the education and culture sectors. UNESCO has committed to the immediate rehabilitation of 40 of the 159 affected schools with funds it has already raised. In the coming months, UNESCO will prioritize funding for schooling and distance learning, an urgent issue for the 85,000 affected students.
The Lebanese government plans to reopen schools on 29 September using distance education modalities, and the Global Education Coalition is working to help assure all learners can access education and learning, particularly those most adversely impacted by the recent crises.
Since its creation at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Education Coalition has emerged as an essential network to respond to the unprecedented challenges facing the education sector.
Photo: A school in Beirut damaged by the blasts (Ecole des Trois Docteurs) © UNESCO/Fouad Choufany