Mountain visits Zahle: Supporting education essential to avoid lost generation

FEBRUARY 3, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) During a joint visit with the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, and OCHA to the Zahle-Maalaka Intermediate Public School for Boys today, Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain called for ensuring access to education and putting all efforts to enroll as many refugee children as possible in school in order to avoid losing a generation.

“Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the generous support of the international community, public schools in Lebanon have opened their classrooms to refugee children, who have been forced to flee violence in their country, allowing them to resume their education,” said Mr. Mountain. He was particularly pleased to know that school improvements are not only benefiting refugee students but also Lebanese.

Mr. Mountain voiced concern for the over two third of the refugee children who currently are not accommodated in either of the two shifts of formal education and encouraged the extension of informal education programmes organized by UNICEF and NGO partners.

“Beyond catering to their needs of children, if we wish to keep children and youth away from unwanted influences and extremism, education is essential,” he said.

UNICEF, through its local partner Caritas, is supporting Lebanese and Syrian children in the Maalaka School. Also, through the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), UNICEF implemented WASH rehabilitation projects at the campus to improve the learning environment for Lebanese and Syrian students. Support to children in schools includes supplies, fuel, tuition fees, and repair of WASH facilities.

Along with the Mayor of Saadnayel Mr. Khalil el Shhimi, the delegation visited a project site in the village, where UNDP has supported the construction of a basketball and a football court ensuring a safe recreational space for the youth in the area, allowing them to channel their energy into positive and constructive activities.

Mr. Mountain stressed that such initiatives help maintain stability by bringing youth together to overcome their differences through sports activities. Such stabilization activities reflect the spirit of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP).

UNDP is also rehabilitating an old bridge in the village of Saadnayel and constructing two others to help improve the road network and reorganize the transportation system.

The delegation met with UN agencies and national and international NGOs operating in the Bekaa. Mr. Mountain commended their valuable efforts in responding to the urgent needs of the most vulnerable Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinian, especially amidst a harsh winter. He encouraged them to continue to creatively develop programmes that benefit all communities and enhance social stability.