Story by Tala Ramadan - An Nahar, 8 July 2019
With the conviction that education transforms lives, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States in Beirut, with funding from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief), has decided to provide innovative and diverse educational pathways for Syrian children and youth in Lebanon so that young men and women in crucial formative years are not left without job opportunities.
“Supporting the Completion of Basic Education for the Syrian Refugees in Lebanon” initiative targeted more than 8200 students and aimed at increasing learning opportunities and ensuring retention for at-risk Syrian students in Lebanon, especially among middle and high-school students. This project is linked to initiatives related to the education of Syrians in Lebanon, in an attempt to bridge the gap and complement recent efforts.
In the framework of the project, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States – Beirut and Kayany Foundation launched the “UNESCO Middle Schools to Support Syrian Refugees’ Education in Lebanon.” The director of the UNESCO regional office in Beirut Dr. Hamed Al Hammami highlighted how important it is for host countries to mobilize all means and resources to make continuous learning more accessible because along with education comes hope, stability and security in the face of stress and social and economic circumstances from which displaced children often suffer. He also emphasized that the UNESCO office in Lebanon, in full coordination with the Ministry of Education and UN agencies, has been keen on steering its programs towards bridging the gaps in the projects approved by its partners.
The project’s importance also lies in the fact that through the vocational support program, it aims at empowering more than 2000 Syrian and Palestinian female refugees (who moved to Lebanon recently as a result of the war in Syria) to do simple self-employable jobs to increase the family income, thus enhancing the family’s wellbeing and helping to increase the rate of children returning to school, especially among working children. Training courses focused on short-term vocational sessions in the fields of sewing, embroidery, knitting, hair styling, cooking, marketing, and information technologies.
In addition, the project has focused on providing incentives for administrative school staff members participating in the Educational Complementary Program and has trained 600 teachers in target areas around Lebanon on competencies required to implement the Educational Support Program.
UNESCO has also developed a life skills program to establish an educational structure that includes psychological wellbeing and has supported teachers with innovative training materials related to academic support. It has also provided supportive educational materials such as textbooks, stationery, learning materials, as well as transportation, meals, and registration to make sure that Syrian students remain in education.
The legacy of the Syrian war which has led to wide-scale displacement in the region and in the world and has disrupted many vital social sectors in host countries is well known and has put considerable pressure on communities especially in the education sector with 483 000 refugees of school age (aged between 3 and 18) in Lebanon. In such circumstances, there is an utmost need for capacity building to create inclusive and peaceful learning environments to welcome Syrian children, encourage them to feel included and to enroll at schools. These are indeed critical years for students who have lost their homes and dreams all at once.