Coinciding with the Global Education Summit the UK and Kenya are co-hosting in London this week, the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Ian Collard, delivered the following statement on education in Lebanon:
“The main hope of a nation”, said the Dutch scholar Erasmus, “lies in the proper education of its youth”. For Lebanon, this has never felt more true. The country’s best times have been founded on a strong investment in its education sector – creating Lebanese thinkers, entrepreneurs, and professionals who were able not just to shape their nation positively but whose ambitions spread into the region and indeed beyond. Sadly, one of the greatest risks to Lebanon now, as it deals with one of the most challenging periods in its history, is what is happening to the education of its children.
The UK has been a strong supporter of education in Lebanon, as we have globally. This week in London we are hosting, jointly with Kenya, a Global Education Summit to emphasize the importance of the education agenda, and especially education for girls. Indeed, for any country aspiring to improve their society all the evidence suggests that girls’ education is one of the smartest investments we can make to lift people out of poverty, grow economies, save lives, and build back better from Covid-19.
Here in Lebanon, despite the heroic efforts and commitment of the country’s many teaching and education professionals, the crises that have hit here – including the political and economic turmoil, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Beirut Port explosion – have all badly affected the education sector. At least 1.2 million children across Lebanon have had their education disrupted for more than a year, with many having not attended school since October 2019. This has affected Lebanese and refugee children alike.
Any parent in Lebanon today will appreciate the practical challenges of remote education. Online learning is compromised by a weak digital infrastructure and limited access to technology. These remain a significant barrier for many across Lebanon; those already vulnerable are likely to be worst affected. And whether it be in the world of technology, education, entrepreneurship, law, economy, civil society and more, Lebanon simply cannot afford to lose a future generation.
So education continues to be a priority for the UK in Lebanon. Through our programs and political advocacy, and with international and Lebanese partners, the UK is proud to help to provide children here with education opportunities and crucial life skills. We have invested in financial and technical assistance to strengthen the public education system and to improve teaching and learning standards, including inclusive education and distance learning. British Council partnerships have digitally connected Lebanese and British schools, and its free access Digital Library offers something for everyone.
Only two weeks into my role in Lebanon, I greatly look forward to meeting the many inspirational people in the country who are committed to doing all they can to make Lebanon secure, stable and prosperous. Indeed, the Lebanese people remain the country’s greatest asset and the reason why – in the long run – I remain an optimist, despite the difficulties of the moment. But the system is gravely failing the people, and the next generation. And the collateral damage to education provision from the political impasse and failure to tackle Lebanon’s big challenges is serious and substantial.
A decent education is a human right – it offers a ladder to economic success, and empowers young people with the skills necessary to realize their broader potential. But it is more than that. Against the challenges of an interconnected modern world, a successful Lebanon will be one that stays true to its roots as an outward facing, energetic and inquisitive country. And it is educational excellence – “turning mirrors into windows”, broadening horizons and openings minds – that will deliver this. You can bet on this like your future depends on it: because, quite honestly, it does.”