On 23 April 2019, UNESCO Beirut and Kayany Foundation launched the UNESCO Middle Schools for Syrian Refugees, at Saadnayel UNESCO Middle School, Bekaa. The UNESCO Middle Schools for Syrian Refugees were established within the framework of the UNESCO’s project “Supporting the Completion of Basic Education for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon” - funded by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre and implemented in partnership with Kayany Foundation. The project intends to widen education opportunities, progressing and pathways, and ensure retention for at risk Syrian students in Lebanon, especially at the middle and high school levels. It links to ongoing initiatives related to the education of the Syrians in Lebanon, trying to fill the gap and complement recent efforts.
High-level personalitis spoke at the launch event, including: Minister of Education and Higher Education Mr Akram Chehayeb, President of Kayany Foundation Mrs Noura Joumblat, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr Philippe Lazzarini, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, and Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut, Dr. Hamed Al Hammami. High-level personalities attended the event, including : Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mr. Walid Al-Bukhari, Minister Wael Abou Faour, Governor of Bekaa, Mr. Kamal Abu-Jouda, Director General of the Ministry of Education Mr. Fadi Yaark, representative of the Director of the Educational Zone in the Bekaa, Mr. Youssef Breidi, as well as representatives of UN agencies in Lebanon.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Noura Joumblat said: “At Kayany Foundation, we believe that education is an essential human right. Education is crucial for tens of thousands of Syrian children and youth who are affected by war. Education is an essential tool to protect and save generations who live in tough conditions and who have suffered from war. Hence our partnership with UNESCO to establish UNESCO's Middle Schools, which provide Syrian refugees with a safe space for learning, and offer them the chance to build a better future and have a decent life. Most importantly, these schools empower Syrian children and youth through equipping them with the knowledge and skills that would enable them to contribute and participate in the reconstruction of their home country”.
As to Dr Hamed Al Hammami, he reiterated UNESCO’s commitment to ensure quality and inclusive education for all, and support Member States in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4. Dr Al Hammami said: “UNESCO believes in the right of all children to education, regardless of their conditions. That especially holds true for refugee children. Host countries must work to ensure education opportunities for refugee children, because education brings hope, stability and security in the face of psychological stress and difficult social and economic conditions. We also believe that education is essential to enable children and youth to acquire basic skills to rebuild their countries after return, as well as to contribute to reconciliation efforts”. Dr Al Hammami highlighted that: “In Lebanon, UNESCO has been coordinating with the Ministry of Education and the UN agencies to fill the gaps and complement existing efforts to ensure that Syrian refugee children complete basic education, as well as secondary and tertiary education. The schools we launched today seek to provide Syrian refugee children with non-formal catch-up education programmes, while also providing them with psychosocial support”.
Then, Mr Lazzarini addressed a message, stating: “We estimate that only 3% of Syrian refugees between the age of 15-18 complete secondary education. The rest are missing out on future opportunities – this is not acceptable. When children miss out on completing basic education, the impact is a lifetime”. He added: “We cannot afford to let these children and youth miss out on education. Education is their right; it enables children and youth to live in dignity and prepares to contribute to rebuilding their country once they return”. Mr Lazzarini also highlighted that: “Education must be inclusive – this means education is accessible to all children and youth and addresses obstacles to their participation and achievement. It also means education ensures that refugees are integrated into formal education, while giving the option to be enrolled in non-formal accredited education programs. The UNESCO Schools we are launching today, set an example for an inclusive school approach striving to make education transformative. The approach is putting great emphasis on skills and not just on knowledge. It also promotes engagement with the surrounding community, with the aim to leave no one behind by providing the most advantaged groups with the chance to access or return to school”. Mr Lazzarini called for more investment in education: “We need to help young refugees complete their education. This is a matter of human dignity, a shared responsibility. We need more, not less, commitment to invest in education”.
As to Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, he said: “I would like to seize this opportunity to convey a message to this brotherly country - Lebanon: I would like to extend a word of appreciation and gratitude to the government and people of Lebanon for hosting the displaced people from Syria, Palestine, Iraq and the rest of the world. And to the Syrian refugees, I would like to say: your pain is our pain, we know what you have been through and we know what you have suffered due to war, loss of family members, and displacement. The least we can do is to offer you this assistance to support you and stand by you. This project we launched with UNESCO is one among several programs of assistance we are pleased to offer you”. He added: “The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre places great importance on education and providing educational assistance to countries in need, to refugees and to displaced people. We have thus far provided $ 137 million in educational aid through 63 educational programs in several countries. Because education is a priority for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, we are glad to launch these schools today”.
The event concluded with the speech of Minister of Education Akram Chehayeb, who said: “This project implemented by UNESCO and Kayany Foundation and funded by KSRelief is on the same line of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s efforts to deliver education to every child on Lebanese territory, through the RACE programme. It complements recent efforts to protect a generation of dear Syrians from ignorance and loss”. Chehayeb added: “We believe that providing education for refugee children is a humanitarian necessity and moral duty, that end up benefitting both Lebanon and the refugees. Education fosters a culture of dialogue and respect of diversity, and contributes to preventing young people from falling into extremism and violence, and brings refugees together around humanitarian values and development work, which will no doubt contribute in the future to building a pluralistic democratic Syria, away from the one-party rule, which will help stabilize Syrian and its neighborhood”. Chehayeb highlighted: “The education of refugee children in Lebanon is a large and burdensome issue. The Lebanese government could not have borne the cost of this issue without the assistance of donors and international organizations who stood by Lebanon as host country. The financial assistance the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is providing us through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre is highly valuable and appreciated; this assistance comes as no surprise as the Kingdom has always supported and stood by Lebanon in tough times”.
The event included two testimonials by the parents and the students of UNESCO’s Middle Schools who thanked UNESCO, the Kayany Foundation, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre for offering refugee children a chance to complete their education. The event also included a performance by Kayany Foundation’s choir.