BEIRUT: Though a recent initiative by the United Kingdom to cover the cost of textbooks in Lebanese public schools is considered a “one-off investment” to meet the dire need, an embassy spokesperson said Monday that the U.K. was planning further projects. Referring to the recent announcement that the U.K. would cover the cost of school books for students attending Lebanese public schools in the current academic year, U.K. Embassy Communications Manager Abir Brier Heneine said: “We are basically covering what was requested [by the ministry].”
“Where there is a need, we are filling the gaps,” she added.
The Education Ministry had relayed to the U.K. its most pressing needs, which included supplying core textbooks.
U.K. Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher reiterated his country’s commitment to supply the books during a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Monday.
The project will cover the expenses of books for Lebanese students, as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugee students enrolled in both morning and afternoon shift programs, to help ease the burden on their parents and the Education Ministry, Fletcher said, according to a statement issued from Mikati’s office.
The donation was originally announced by U.K. International Development Secretary Justine Greening last week during an official visit. She said the U.K. would provide Lebanon with up to 4 million pounds to fund the purchase of roughly 307,000 textbook packages for Lebanese and Syrian students aged between 6-15 years of age who are attending public school.
About 300,000 Lebanese children are already enrolled in public schools and around 80,000 refugee children, who fled the fighting in Syria, are enrolled in both regular and second-shift programs.
The U.K. plan will ensure that every child between 6 and 15 enrolled in public school has a set of textbooks covering key academic subjects. It will also cover books for all 80,000 refugee children, as well as Lebanese children from low income families who might otherwise be at risk of dropping out.
Each package will include texts covering science, literature, languages, mathematics and other core curricular subjects. Each package will be tailored to the needs and curriculum of pupils in the appropriate school year. In line with the trilingual Lebanese curriculum, the textbooks will be in a mix of English, French and Arabic.
“Basically, the U.K. is thinking long term and beyond basic needs,” Heneine said, explaining the impetus behind the British contribution. “We’ve already contributed to winterization programs [for Syrian refugees] water and sanitation initiatives [in host communities] through the UNHCR and other agencies.”
She said the emphasis on Lebanon’s education sector complimented DFID’s plan to not only help refugees, but disadvantaged Lebanese as well.
While she said there were no official plans to renew the textbook initiative for the next academic year, Heneine added that the U.K. was definitely planning to do more for Lebanon’s education sector, the details of which will become more apparent in the coming months.
Britain pledged an additional 100 million pounds in humanitarian aid to the latest round of Syria funding appeals in Kuwait this month, bringing its total to 600 million pounds.
“The last contribution was made in Kuwait, and while we don’t have a definite breakdown yet, there will be more money coming for Lebanon,” she added.