Education Cannot Wait’s High-level Mission to Lebanon Calls for Urgent Public and Private Sector Donor Support for Education
Mission provides the opportunity to initiate with partners the process for the planned ECW-funded multi-year resilience education programme in Lebanon
Concluding her latest mission to Lebanon, Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – highlighted the severe impact of multiple crises on the lives and education of the country’s children and youth, and urgently appealed for additional funding to support them: “We must all invest in education in Lebanon today; if not now, it may soon be too late. I call on public and private sector donors around the world to support Lebanon’s education system with the fierce urgency of now.”
“Our will to revive the educational sector stems from our hearts’ strong determination,” said Lebanon’s Minister of Education and Higher Education, H.E. Dr Tarek Majzoub, during a high-level press conference in Beirut launching the new Education Cannot Wait and UNESCO Beirut partnership to rehabilitate 40 schools damaged by the Beirut explosions and provide 94 public schools with new equipment to replace those damaged in the blast. “The educational system is central to bringing the country back to life. If this system fails, the country will lose its backbone.”
Lebanon hosts the largest proportion of refugees per capita of the local population in the world. Since 1948, it has been home to a large Palestine refugee community. Since 2011, it has seen more than one million Syrians – many of them children – cross the border into an already over-stretched and under-funded society with pre-existing and continuing education challenges for refugee, host-community and Lebanese children.
“I appeal to the international community to stand with Lebanon by providing immediate and generous funding for the education sector. Multiple crises threaten to reverse progress made and further leave behind those struggling through these crises: refugees and host-communities alike,” said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group.
Just four months ago, while already in the throes of the most severe financial crisis in its history, as well as combating the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, Lebanon’s capital Beirut, was struck by a catastrophic blast. The explosion destroyed hospitals and schools, dramatically affecting the city’s infrastructure, disproportionately affecting many already marginalized citizens at a time when the country was ill-equipped to support them.
It was in this context that ECW visited the site of a Beirut blast-damaged school in Geitawi, Achrafieh during which ECW, together with UNESCO and Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, launched their new partnership to rehabilitate damaged schools following the 4 August 2020 Beirut explosions.
- ECW’s First Emergency Response (FER): Thanks to ECW’s funding support in September 2020, 40 public and private schools damaged in the explosions will benefit from rapid rehabilitation efforts, and 94 public schools will be provided with new equipment to replace those damaged by the blasts.
ECW’s field trips during the six-day mission included visits to informal settlements hosting Syrian refugees, Palestine refugee camps, and meetings with parents and children from marginalized Lebanese families.
- Education challenges: ECW’s 2019 Annual Report indicates that some 631,209 Syrian children and 447,400 vulnerable Lebanese children faced challenges accessing education in 2019. This number further increased in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During COVID-19, ECW is supporting online learning for marginalized children in Lebanon whose schools are closed due to the pandemic.
In south Lebanon’s Ein El Hilweh camp alone, the education of more than 6,000 children is under threat due to lack of continuity of funding for UNRWA, as are the multiple programmes sustained by the organization in regional camps and urgent funding is required.
- Under-funding challenges: Under-funding is endemic within Lebanon’s current economic malaise, and ECW advocates globally for the restoration of funding to UNRWA – the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
“Every girl and boy in Lebanon has both the right to inclusive, quality education and the right to learn in safety. Education Cannot Wait stands shoulder-to-shoulder in support of every child and every government and non-governmental actor which shares our vision for guaranteeing the delivery of these rights,” said Sherif. “Lebanon’s window of opportunity is closing fast. We are not prepared to stand by and watch it slam shut in the faces of the most vulnerable children and youth when we know a solution is readily in reach if we join hands in their support.”
Beyond addressing first emergency responses, ECW is working to establish multi-year resilience programmes in Lebanon. These aim to bridge the gap between short-term humanitarian responses and longer-term development interventions and will set a milestone in advancing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on inclusive and equitable, quality education. The mission provided an opportunity to initiate the launch process for the planned ECW-funded multi-year resilience education programme in Lebanon.
“Education is the key to addressing the many challenges faced in this wonderful country, and by investing now in children’s futures it will quickly build a stronger economy and build greater resilience and opportunity for everyone in Lebanon,” said Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld. Theirworld was the first to advocate for the integration of Syrian students into school system in Lebanon, and views education as the best investment for girls and boys, and for the future of their country.
With its urgent objective to heighten global awareness surrounding education challenges for the most vulnerable children in the country, ECW’s Lebanon visit provided several strategic moments for the global Education Cannot Wait movement to advocate for an even more collective approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes in line with the UN’s 2030 reform agenda. Joint analysis, joint planning, and collaborative programming, along with ECW’s value-added approach of bringing local and international actors together with a common aim, ensures effective plans are created on the ground and owned locally.
Education Cannot Wait’s mission – which included Sherif and ECW’s Chief of Strategic Partnerships, Nasser Faqih and ECW’s Chief of Humanitarian Liaison, Maarten Barends – was supported on many levels by the government of Lebanon, to whom ECW extends its heartfelt thanks.
During her six-day mission in the country, Sherif met with: Lebanon government representatives, including the Minister of Education and Higher Education; the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator; UN agencies, including UNRWA, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNHCR; civil society and bilateral partners, including Save the Children, AVSI, NRC, IRC and World Vision; and in-country donors.
About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crisis. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve educational outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. We re-emphazise our call to public and private sector donors to step up to mobilize US$400 million in funding in support of the establishment of a series of global multi-year resilience education programmes around the world.
About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings around the world. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.
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