Co-authored by Ahmed Bayram, Media and Communications Officer, Save the Children in Lebanon
Access to quality education in Lebanon needs to be made available for all children before it is too late.
Working with children provides you with a unique opportunity to listen to wonderful stories. In spite of the difficult times they are experiencing, you realise that giving up is not an option for those children.
Take Nada for example. We met the girl in her tent in one of northern Lebanon’s informal settlements for Syrian refugees, to hear about her struggle to find a place to learn. At the age of six, Nada was excited about the prospect of going to school for the first time. She never thought for a moment that her disability would be a problem for her to learn.
Except that it was. Nada’s family were told that no school would take responsibility for schooling her and the girl missed four years of education
Having been finally accepted at the fourth attempt, Nada, now 15, never looked back. With support from Save the Children’s volunteers working in the school, she has moved to grade 4 and is eagerly waiting for school to open its doors again. We asked her if she would ever consider quitting. “I would never accept that,” she said.
Nada’s physical limitations never stopped her. If anything, she now dreams of becoming a doctor to “treat people like me.’’
GREAT STRIDES TAKEN BUT MANY ARE MISSING OUT
Nada is one of many children preparing to go back to school after the summer holidays. But there are plenty of others who are not. In Lebanon, more than half a million children have no access to education. Up to 59 percent of Syrian child refugees are out of school. If comparison helps put this into perspective, this is like having Birmingham or Stockholm without a single child at school.
These are huge numbers, but the reasons hiding behind them are not intractable. Many children don’t go to school because there is no bus to take him or her, or because they don’t possess sufficient documents – these are barriers that can be eradicated.
What happens next to those who miss out on education is simply unpredictable. Many children will end up filling sacks of potatoes in the farm, others feeding their own babies. Child labour and child marriage are just two of many unwanted consequences to lack of education.
Efforts by the Lebanese Government, led by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), have helped to accommodate refugee children in afternoon shifts, but much more needs to be done. The international community and donors should honour pledges to provide financial support needed to create additional spaces for children in public schools. Figures indicate that less than a third of the $1.4 billion funding needed for education was committed last year, with only half of the 1.7 million Syrian refugee children in the region getting into school.
This is why Save the Children is launching #TheirEducation_OurFuture; a national campaign that addresses the right of all children in Lebanon to access quality education. The initiative falls under the umbrella of the Every Last Child campaign, launched last year to reach the most excluded children around the world.
Over the coming weeks, we will tell the inspirational stories of 16 brave, talented children who have mixed opportunities presented to them. They come from different nationalities and backgrounds, but there is one thing in common that brings them together; they are all passionate about education.
Some of those children fought hard to find a space. Others had to work and study at the same time. They overcame enormous challenges and barriers in order to learn. Unfortunately many children are still fighting to join them.
Dealing with such enormous numbers needs a systematic approach. We believe that, in addition to making more spaces available at public schools, Non-Formal Education can answer the urgent need to reach more children, particularly those living in vulnerable communities.
It is everyone’s duty to ensure support is dedicated to children’s education. Ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month, it is good for us to be reminded that investment in education is an investment in a prosperous and peaceful future of which we all aspire to be part.
#TheirEducation_OurFuture is a national campaign launched by Save the Children to address the right of all children to access quality education, including Syrian Refugees and vulnerable Lebanese children. This campaign is part of the organisation’s Every Last Child global campaign.