July 29, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) Marking the announcement of the Reaching All Children through Education (RACE) enrolment process for the upcoming school year, through vital support by the international community under the leadership of the Minister of Education Elias Bou Saab, a press conference was held with UK Minister of State for International Development, Desmond Swayne MP, Ross Mountain, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, and World Bank Regional Director, Ferid Belhaj.
The press conference was an opportunity to underline the actions taken to ensure all vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon can access a quality education subject to sufficient funding. Under the 2015/16 enrolment process, public schools will re-enroll 106,000 Syrian refugee students that were previously enrolled last year. In addition, the second shifts in the afternoon will be expanded to reach more children closer to their homes. The MEHE pilot Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) will help children out of school catch up on lost learning time and enter public schools at required learning standards, provided additional donor funding is received.
It also highlighted the intensive operational planning that MEHE has underway to ensure a smooth and successful enrolment process. Over the last year, many inspiring stories have emerged of Lebanese education leaders and ‘frontline heroes’ dedicated to getting all vulnerable children into school and helping children overcome the impacts of poverty and conflict and learn well. The demand from children for school places also has shown the tremendous resilience of children themselves in overcoming adversity and seek a bright future through education.
The international community is supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s RACE plan with funds committed by the EU, Germany, UK, US, France, UN, China, Canada, Japan, Italy, Norway, Finland, Kuwait, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands. The conferees agreed to mobilise additional funding from the international community to fill funding gaps throughout the school year and reach remaining out of school children over time.
Minister of Education Elias Bou Saab: “The whole world is aware of the scale of the issues facing Lebanon due to unprecedented displacement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to Lebanon, coupled by the existing Palestinian presence, bringing the refugee presence to 35% of Lebanon’s population. The scale of the problem requires more support and funding from donors and the international community. Last year 104,000 Syrian refugee students were taught in Lebanese schools. This year we are aiming to double the number of Syrian children in our public schools to 200,000 students subject to the funding we receive. I ask the International community to express its long term commitment to the ongoing crisis.
UK Minister of State for International Development, Desmond Swayne MP said: “I am delighted that the UK is investing in Lebanon’s future with a total of $93m education aid over five years. This includes a UK investment of $32m via the Lebanon Syria Crisis Trust Fund to support the Emergency Education System Stabilisation Programme (EESSP) to support public sector education service delivery. In response to excellent leadership of Government of Lebanon on the Reaching All Children with Education Plan (RACE) UK is providing an additional $15m for this school year to help fill remaining financing gaps. This education funding will help ensure that both Lebanese and refugee children have access to school and receive a quality education.”
Minister Swayne also said: “I am also pleased to announce a $2m UK investment into Research for Results: Lebanon Education System Improvement Programme led by the World Bank under the oversight of a high level Steering Committee chaired by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Our ambition is that Lebanon’s education system and all of its students achieve academic high performance and skills for their future with the benefit of political leadership and world class expertise driving education reform.”
Ross Mountain UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident Coordinator Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative: Lebanon and the Ministry of Education are facing the greatest education crisis in living memory. We urge the international community to continue investing in education for all vulnerable children, not only to protect children’s futures, but also as protection against the growing risks of abuse and exploitation. By educating the poorest children, those living in conditions of exclusion and deprivation, they will acquire the soft and hard skills essential to improve their own lives and be a positive force for change in their communities.”
Ferid Belhaj, Regional Director, World Bank said: “The World Bank is a strong partner of the Government of Lebanon in supporting the RACE strategy, which strengthens Lebanon’s ability to respond to the impact of the Syrian crisis on its education system. Through the Lebanon Syria Crisis Trust Fund, we are channeling $32 million to the Emergency Education System Stabilization Program (EESSP) and are ready to put more through the system as donor support increases. This support however will need to be matched by as strong a commitment by the Lebanese government to critically streamline its decision making processes so they match the urgency of the situation. In addition, with the financial support of the UK Government, the WB is launching a multi-year education research program to shed light on the challenges Lebanon is facing in coping with the shock to its education system”.