Refugee School Enrollments Rise in Lebanon

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08 June 2016
Refugee School Enrollments Rise in Lebanon
The number of Syrian refugee children enrolled in public schools in Lebanon has risen by 152 percent over the last three academic years, helped by campaigns from the Lebanese Government and outreach efforts from international partners, according to a new report from UNHCR.

The report, “UNHCR Lebanon: Back to School,” provides details on the joint education progamme between the Government of Lebanon, UNHCR and education and protection partners. It shows that 157,984 refugee children (from Kindergarten to grade nine), were enrolled in formal public education in the country in January. That figure was up from 106,735 a year earlier and 62,664 in 2013-2014. More ambitious targets are being set for the next academic year through the national education strategy currently being developed, which aims to enroll all children in Lebanon.

The increase in enrollment is due to the leadership of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and its plan to offer education opportunities to all school-aged children in Lebanon. It is also the result of UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO and donors’ work with partners to provide information about the importance of enrollment and support for children to remain in school.

One of UNHCR’s contributions to education in Lebanon is its outreach capacity and ability to mobilize communities around enrollment and retention. More specifically, UNHCR assists learning through more than 100 refugees trained to act as education assistants in their own communities; they help establish Parents’ Committees to galvanize the enrollment of refugee children in public schools and support students with their homework from informal settlements or shared apartments. UNHCR’s community outreach activities have largely been made possible through funding from the European Union.

Some 131 youths were also supported in the current academic year through the DAFI scholarship programme to attend Lebanese universities. In turn, the DAFI students helped younger students with their homework in their own communities.

The report also tells some of the human stories behind the numbers, including those of Fatime, a Syrian volunteer using her science background to help children in Saida; Amar, 14, who is working hard at the Aydamoun Public School in North Lebanon and dreams of becoming a nurse; and Aya, 4, who has been provided with a wheelchair as part of a pilot programme and will soon attend school for the first time.

“Attending public school and receiving a certified education is seen by the Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon as a key priority. Without education, there’s no future for the children who will one day rebuild Syria.” said Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative in Lebanon. “Enrollment numbers are up, but too many children are still out of school or dropping out.”

Many schools report that the numbers enrolled often do not tally with actual attendance due to movement of refugee families, the lack or high cost of transportation and adaptation issues. Some families also need children to work to make ends meet. A separate UN interagency report conducted last year with MEHE estimated that approximately 255,400 children of all nationalities were out of school in Lebanon at the end of last year. It recommended further outreach efforts and more funding for MEHE to expand classes.

In 2012, MEHE opened the doors of public schools to Syrian refugee students, giving them a chance of an education that they would otherwise have been denied. As demand grew, UNHCR worked with MEHE to launch a second shift in 2013 from 2.00-6.00 pm, to enable more children to attend. The number of schools offering the second shift was 238 in 2015-2016, up from 144 a year earlier and 90 in 2013-2014, according to the UNHCR report.

Under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, a joint Government of Lebanon–UN initiative, USD 267.1 million was received for the sector in 2015, up from USD 98.8 million in 2014. UNHCR funding for education was USD 27.6 million in 2015, up from USD 18.5 million in 2014. Key donors include the European Union, the Swedish Post Code Lottery, the Big Heart Foundation, France and the Said Foundation.

UNHCR works with partners including MEHE, UNICEF and NGOs on the ‘Back to School Campaign’ before the start of every school year, helping inform students and families about enrollment and to encourage participation.

For further information contact:

Matthew Saltmarsh
Senior Communication Officer
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Lebanon
Tel.: +961-1-849201 (Ext.: 2130)
Mobile: +961-79-139992

Lisa Abou Khaled
Assistant Communications/Public Information Officer
Tel.: +961-1-849201 (Ext.: 2134)
Mobile: +961-71-880070