New funding provides over 32,000 Palestine refugee children and youth with access to quality, inclusive education and expands COVID-19 prevention measures

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22 January 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) today announced US$1.5 million in grant funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Lebanon.

The expanded funding will provide over 32,000 Palestine refugee children and youth living in Lebanon with access to safe and inclusive learning and will provide personal protective equipment for staff and students to help control the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of all.

“UNRWA tirelessly advocates for the right of all Palestine refugee children to inclusive quality education to develop their full potential – regardless of gender, abilities, disabilities, socio-economic status and health and psychosocial needs,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini. ”As these young girls and boys learn to practice the principles of tolerance, conflict resolution and human rights, they positively impact their community while growing into responsible adults.”

A high-level delegation led by Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, visited Lebanon last month to assess ECW’s support for damaged schools rehabilitation following the Beirut explosion, and to advance progress on a potential Education Cannot Wait facilitated multi-year resilience programme in Lebanon. ECW approved a US$1.5 million education in emergency response to the blast in September 2020 and US$2.8 million in COVID-19 education in emergency response funds last year.

“We must continue to work for, and support Palestine refugee children and youth in Lebanon. They have an inherent human right to protection and quality education. I am especially concerned about the threat of cuts for children with disabilities, whose dreams are at stake,” said Sherif. “I therefore call on all public and private sector donors to support UNRWA and Lebanon’s education system now. By doing so, all these crisis-affected girls and boys will be able to enjoy an inclusive and quality education. All will be given an equal opportunity to become their dream.”

With this new round of ECW funding, UNRWA will reach children in grades 1 to 9 through its Learning Support Programme (LSP), which will ensure that over 200 teachers deliver enhanced and tailored learning support to the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach students, especially children with disabilities. Over half of the project beneficiaries are girls. The new ECW investment will also provide personal protective equipment and supplies to 14,000 children to facilitate the safe reopening of schools and to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.


Notes to editors:

Learn more about ECW-financed programmes in Lebanon.

Programme intervention focus areas:

Access: The intervention will provide services to support children’s access to quality, inclusive, and equitable education in a safe and healthy school environment with a focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children

Continuity: The intervention supports the continuation of the Learning Support Programme (LSP) which reinforces the retention of students currently enrolled in schools, while the provision of PPEs and cleaning supplies enables UNRWA to continue to safely operate schools during the pandemic.

Gender Equality and Equity: The project provides tailored support for the individual learning needs of boys and girls, thus helping to prevent the risk of drop-outs.

Protection: The project will ensure the retention of students within the formal education system, considered to be one of the most important protective layers in a child’s life during times of crisis. Keeping children in school will also allow for the early detection of a range of child protection issues, as well as timely provision of additional support where needed and onwards referral to specialized services.

Quality: “Learning Support” is a special instructional approach designed to help students acquire a desired level of academic achievement by using instructional materials and techniques specifically designed to meet their individual needs in UNRWA schools. Supporting the continuity of the LSP ensures quality of both teaching and learning for all students.


Through ECW’s first emergency response window, UNESCO will rehabilitate 40 schools and support 30,000 students to resume learning

4 September 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) today approved US$1.5 million in new education in emergency funding in response to last month’s explosion in Beirut.

The new funding comes just one month after the 4 August 2020 blast, which damaged 140 schools and affected at least 55,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese students.

Through the ECW grant, UNESCO, in close coordination with Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, will support the rapid rehabilitation of approximately 40 schools in the area of the explosion, allowing at least 30,000 children and youth whose schools were damaged to resume their learning in a physically safe environment during the 2020-2021 school year.

“Beirut has suffered a lot, but will rise again. We need to support the young generation to sustain and this means rehabilitating their damaged schools without delay,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “We know that our strategic partner UNESCO, working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, will be able to rapidly rehabilitate 40 damaged schools for these girls and boys.”

Severe destruction of the schools has been reported by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and education sector, including crumbling walls, broken windows, leaking roofs, broken desks and chairs. School water and sanitation facilities have also been damaged, further exacerbating the ongoing health crisis posed by COVID-19.

Compounding economic and political crises are putting over a million children and youth at risk in Lebanon. Analysis from ECW’s 2019 Annual Report indicates that approximately 631,209 Syrian children and 447,400 vulnerable Lebanese children faced challenges accessing education in 2019.

The approval of today’s additional funding builds on the results from ECW’s US$2.3 million grant for Lebanon, which ran from August 2018 to February 2020.


Residents at a Syrian refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Residents at a Syrian refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon. UN Photo/Mark Garten


28 November 2018, Beirut – Language is power. To empower its students and improve French teaching and learning – especially for Syrian refugees who have struggled to progress and thrive in classes primarily taught in the French language – UNESCO is partnering with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) to scale up the impacts of a US$2.2 million project funded by Education Cannot Wait.

The project will promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French for both Lebanese and non-Lebanese students to improve learning outcomes in core subjects. In a bilingual society, this will contribute to improvements in transition and retention rates, and provide a safer, more effective learning environment for recent arrivals fleeing the war, chaos and danger in Syria.

“This investment in developing the capacity of schools and teachers to deliver quality education to vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian children is one of the high priorities of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon to stress that access and enrollment to schools are not enough to ensure quality learning,” said Mr. Fadi Yarak, Director General of Education at the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education. “We have to continuously improve to deliver the best education for these children to ensure that they successfully finish their school years and move on to a brighter future.”


Development of Lebanon’s education sector was disrupted by the onset of the Syria Crisis, which obliged the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) to focus on coordinating and managing an emergency response.

Since 2011, MEHE has created places for more than 200,000 non-Lebanese, primarily Syrian, students in its public schools, from a starting point of around 3,000. As a result, the kindergarten to Grade 9 public school population has doubled in the last seven years.

The Ministry’s focus from 2018 is on transitioning from emergency response to meeting the development challenges of managing a protracted crisis. This is critical if Lebanon is to be able to offer all children the kind of education envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal 4 by 2030.

Around three-quarters of Lebanon’s public schools use French as the primary language for instruction for core subjects including mathematics and science from Grade 4 onwards. Students’ ability to learn effectively and progress is therefore highly dependent on developing functional literacy in a second language in early grades, supplemented by continuous, targeted, pupil-centric support from teachers onwards.

While many Lebanese students find the transition from Arabic to French instruction challenging, this issue is compounded for their non-Lebanese peers. These students are overwhelmingly Syrian nationals who have fled the conflict in their home country. Seven years into the Syria Crisis, half of all pupils enrolled in public schools are non-Lebanese. This presents significant challenges for the system, teachers, communities and students themselves.

“I believe that Education Cannot Wait has a very important role to play both to Lebanon and in other countries across the region. ECW’s financial resources and investments focus on quality education and powerful political advocacy, making ECW an impressive vehicle to influence and bring change,” said Philippe Lazzarini, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon and the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative. “Although we now have 200,000 Syrian students absorbed in Lebanese public schools, we have approximately 300,000 more who are out of school, largely girls and youth over 14 years old.”

Lazzarini went on to underscore the value of this investment, encouraging its replication and scaling up across all regions in Lebanon to address the pressing needs of vulnerable host communities and displaced populations.


Addressing education in crisis in the extremely complex region requires multiple bespoke approaches, engagement with a wide variety actors, innovation and flexibility. In neighboring Syria, Education Cannot Wait-funded activities have reached nearly 30,000 children, including over 15,000 girls. In the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Education Cannot Wait-funded activities have reached over 138,000 children, including 67,300 girls. (Figures June 2018)

“Quality education is an essential building block for peace, stability and a better future in this region,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, a new global fund for education in crisis hosted by UNICEF that is looking to mobilize US$1.8 billion to reach 8.9 million children living in crisis by 2021. ““This project enables Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese to effectively study core subjects and participate in the cultural heritage of diversity, art and literature. Such pluralism is a critical aspect of education for peace and stability.”


  • Supporting schools, teachers and students, with a range of high quality, teaching and learning software, materials and equipment, focused on Francophone education.
  • Building the capacity of the existing cadre of teacher coaches (DOPS Counselors) to support teachers in the classrooms of French medium schools, with an emphasis on math and science, as well as French language.
  • Sharing and debating the results of the project and the broader issues of Francophone teaching and learning, and of education in non-mother tongues through a series of workshops and seminars, and producing learning materials and resources.

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