Free education up to grade nine will be provided for all children – Lebanese and non-Lebanese – in public schools this year. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), with the support of USD94 million through UNICEF, UNHCR, and international donors, launched its ‘Back to School’ campaign for free education.
The conference was headed by the Minister of Education and Higher Education Elias Abou Saab, and attended by key donors, including representatives from UNICEF, UNHCR, the Delegation of the European Union, the Embassies of Germany, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Netherland, France, and the World Bank representing the Lebanon Syria Crisis Trust Fund.
“Our responsibility is to ensure that every child on Lebanese territory has access to education,” said Minister Elias Bou Saab. “This year, more than 166,000 Lebanese children in public schools will get free basic education, thanks to commitments made by the international community. We urge parents to immediately register their children and take advantage of this unique opportunity for their future,” he added.
The initiative is in line with the Ministry and the UN commitment to ensure education for all children, a fundamental human right that every child is entitled to. The initiative aims to reach 166,667 Lebanese and 200,000 non-Lebanese vulnerable children – 366,667 children in total.
The Ministry, with the support of UN agencies and international donors, will cover the costs of school registration, parent’s fund fees, and the cost of schoolbooks and stationary for just over 325,000 children through the USD 94 million grant. An additional USD 25 million are needed to provide formal education to the remainder of the children the initiative aims to reach – 41,645 vulnerable, non-Lebanese children of the 200,000 targeted.
“This year marks a major breakthrough: we will double the number of children enrolled in Lebanese public schools compared to last year,” said Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “However, with all the efforts expended, at least 200,000 refugee children still remain outside of the formal education system, deprived of their basic right,” she added.
This year, 1,278 public schools will manage the increased number of students, while another 259 schools – 115 more schools than last year – and 68 UNRWA schools will provide second shifts in the afternoon for refugee children.
“Our priority is to identify out-of-school children and encourage their integration in Lebanese public schools,” said Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative in Lebanon. “At a time when refugees are facing increasing challenges in their daily lives, certified education for their children is much needed”. “This will also help them once they are able to return safely to their country,” she added.
For Syrian refugee children, this year the Ministry and international community are enhancing their support to certified education in formal public schools. This includes a pilot Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), regulated by the MEHE, to help children who have been out of school for over 2 years to catch up in an intensive program of 4 months. Successful completion of an ALP certification will automatically lead to enrolment in a public school.
The Back to School Campaign for the scholastic year 2015/2016 will ensure that certified formal education is provided for free for all children from kindergarten to Grade 9 in public schools across Lebanon. Registration has already started for Lebanese and refugee children going to the first shift. Second shift registration for afternoon classes in public schools will commence on 5 October.