Photo courtesy of A World At School
Fifteen of Lebanon’s top companies met in Beirut last May for a roundtable meeting hosted by GBC-Education. Joined by the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, Minister of Education and Higher Education Elias Bou Saab, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher and People’s Postcode Lottery Country Director Annemiek Hoogenboom, the roundtable sought to map out potential partnerships to support the Lebanese government to continue delivering aid to vulnerable children in Lebanon.
The meeting follows a deal reached in April by the international donor community to expand educational opportunity to thousands of Syrian refugees and vulnerable children in Lebanon. It was agreed to accommodate 200,000 students in a formal double shift schools and use NGOs to deliver complementary non-formal education. While their efforts have allowed 106,000 students to enroll in Lebanese schools so far, funding is still lacking and the business community will play a critical role in enrolling the thousands of children left behind in time for the new school year.
Electrified by the urgency of Lebanon’s growing population of out-of-school children, the business community responded positively to a call for action. GBC-Education members Microsoft and Intel spoke of pioneering new mobile technology to increase their reach while others talked of promoting vocational training to grow specific workforces. Also considered was the possibility of increasing early childhood development opportunities — a newly adopted benchmark in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Despite the success of Lebanon’s double shift schools which allows classrooms to absorb Syrian refugee children into the classroom in the afternoon, projections show that nearly 655,000 more refugee children will enter Lebanon by the end of the year. At a price of $500 per student, an estimated $150 million more is needed to continue enrollment for the upcoming school year.
Discussions took place in concert with a two-day series of events – which included visits to programs supported by UNICEF – to raise awareness for the plight of out-of-school children in Lebanon, culminating in a youth rally held at the American University of Beirut, where Minister Bou Saab and Mr. Brown spoke to over 200 young people about the right to education. Mr. Brown received over 12,000 Lebanese signatures for the Up For School petition from Muslim Aid Country Director Mr Ahmad Fawzi, which he will deliver at the United National General Assembly in September. To date, the petition, which has over 6 million signatures from across the globe, calling for increased action and investment in education.