BEIRUT: Starting at the end of November, Syrian students at 70 schools across Lebanon will attend classes during special “second shifts” in the afternoons, says the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees.
The program, which the Education Ministry in coordination with the UNHCR are introducing shifts this term after a successful pilot study last school year in Arsal, as well as some unofficial second-shift programs in some rural areas, will use the Lebanese curriculum. Lebanese public school teachers will be working overtime to teach the second shift classes.
“The plan is to accept as many Syrian students as possible,” said UNHCR public information associate Joelle Eid. “We’re now in the process of mapping the schools.”
She noted: “Some students have been out of school since the beginning of the conflict, and some kids have become school age since they came to Lebanon.”
The Syrian conflict, now in its third year, has created more than a million child refugees throughout the region, including around 270,000 school-aged children registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.
Less than one-third of these children will be able to attend Lebanese public schools this year. So far, only 20,000 of the 270,000 are enrolled in Lebanese public schools.
The UNHCR says the vast majority of Syrian children now in Lebanon attended school back home in Syria before becoming refugees. Inside Syria, the U.N. reports that around 2 million children have stopped going to school due to the ongoing violence.
Many Syrian children in Lebanon have dropped out of school to support their families by working odd jobs. For those families who are able to send their children to school, the registration process, cost of books and supplies, as well as transportation to and from school can be a great financial burden.
Education and child protection experts have warned of the threat of a “lost generation” whose entire future is now imperiled by the interruption in their education. As of September, UNICEF announced it had only reached 63 percent of its goal of $470 million it said it required to respond to Syrian refugee children’s needs.
“A lot of kids haven’t just been out of school for two months but for two years. Some kids are missing out on their education completely,” Eid said. “We need to prioritize so that they can get an education while they’re here and they can go back to school when they return to Syria.”