BEIRUT: Lebanese and German officials announced Wednesday that Germany has committed 50 million euros ($57 million) to Lebanese public school programs for both Lebanese students and Syrian refugee children.
However, officials said the funding, which had already been anticipated in this year’s budget, would not close the substantial deficit schools are facing. School enrollment programs still face a $25 million budget gap for the current year.
German Ambassador to Lebanon Georg Birgelen said at a news conference Wednesday that his country had contributed 250 million euros to Lebanon’s Reaching All Children with Education program since 2014.
“Unfortunately still today many school-aged children in Lebanon are out of learning and still have no access to formal education,” he said.
“This remains a challenge for all of us. Let me assure you, Germany will continue to support, not only by contributing to the RACE program, but also by investing into the infrastructure of Lebanese public schools and by supporting the Education Ministry in strengthening its capacity to ensure quality education.”
A November fact sheet published by the Education Ministry showed Germany and the European Union to be the largest contributors to enrollment programs for this school year. The United States, which had previously contributed to enrollment costs, shifted its funding to other education programs this year.
This year’s German funding will cover education costs for about 120,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese children, according to a statement released by UNICEF, which partners with the Education Ministry on a number of programs.
“If we add up the number of children that Germany has supported over the years, we will talk about more than half a million children,” UNICEF Lebanon Representative Tanya Chapuisat said Wednesday.
Despite increases in enrollment from a few years ago, nearly one-third of Syrian refugee children between the ages of 6 and 14 are not attending any form of school, according to a 2018 United Nations vulnerability assessment.
And given the budget gap, Education Ministry officials scaled back enrollment outreach efforts this year. Rather than aiming to expand the registration of Syrian students from about 215,000 to 250,000 this year, they kept the number of spots at the same level as last year.
Lebanon’s newly appointed Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said the ministry remained committed to educating both Lebanese and Syrian children.
“This is an official promise,” he told the assembly. “A promise to confirm that Lebanon will not shut the door of public schools in the face of any student from any nationality, and especially our displaced brothers, fleeing from oppression, fleeing from war, fleeing from death and destruction in Syria.”