Lebanon is proud to host more than 1.5 million Syrian brothers, half of whom are children," Minister of Education and Higher Learning, Marwan Hamadeh, said in a speech on behalf of the Lebanese government at the Brussels conference on the future of Syria and the region.
His statement comes as follows:
" Your Excellency Commissioner Hahn, HE Minister Fakhoury, State Secretary Herman, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, DG Danielsson, Distinguished Delegates, and Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the Government of Lebanon today as the Minister of Education and Higher Education.
" I have come to you from Lebanon with mixed feelings of pride and distress. Lebanon is proud to have sheltered, nourished, educated, and cared for a million and a half of our Syrian brothers and sisters, of whom around half a million are children scarred by a brutal war. We have the largest proportion of refugees and displaced people to host population in the world, including Palestinian refugees, we have around 2 million refugees and displaced people with a national population of 4 million. Today one child in three in my country is a displaced child, and approximately 130,000 Syrian children have been born on Lebanese territory since the conflict began in 2011.
" Lebanon is particularly proud of the special attention we have given to the education and protection of Syrian children. We have led the way in creating a five year national plan - Reaching All Children with Education II - to ensure every child in our territory can go to school, stays in quality education, learns well in Arabic and French or English, and has a chance to play and build harmonious relations between all our communities.
" Education is vital for children, parents, and all aspects of our society. Lebanese citizens and the Government make great investments in education, and take great pride in the skills that enable our citizens to thrive at home and abroad.
We took a decision to share this investment with all children in Lebanon: including our schools, curriculum and textbooks, our teachers, and our exams with their prized certificates. One of the most important early acts that facilitated this, was to waive the legal requirement for official documentation in education.
" We walk a fine line to ensure all parents, who want the best for their children and worry about exam results and job prospects, are happy. Since the time of our own civil war, education has been an important route for social mobility, as well as for our sense of national identity. We are ambitious. On the one hand, we are investing in national education system reform in crucial areas like strengthening learning outcomes, curriculum development and teacher performance. On the other, we have created a regulated non-formal education framework to reach vulnerable out of school children with proper learning standards and a pathway to quality formal education.
" What we have achieved, we owe to your friendship as well as the great generosity of the Lebanese population. I would like to thank every RACE partner here today, as well as my team of hard-working officials for the incredible achievements of the last year:
1) A five year Reaching All Children with Education plan and results framework, costed at 350 million dollars per year, and with 3 pillars of access, quality and systems strengthening.
2) 194,750 non-Lebanese and 204,347 Lebanese enrolled in formal public basic education, and more than 50,000 non-Lebanese students in private and subsidized schools.
3) An ambitious regulated non-formal education framework which tests learning levels. This includes the flagship Accelerated Learning Programme that has helped 20,000 children catch up on the Lebanese curriculum. And 20,000 children and youth are in Basic Literacy and Numeracy programmes run by partners that we are in the process of regulating.
4) Improving the quality of education through more systematic measurement of learning levels, exam reform, teacher training, counselling, and performance, provision of free text books, as well as initiating Lebanon's first interactive curriculum.
5) Reaching the most vulnerable children, those with special needs and learning difficulties with a national inclusive education strategy and child protection interventions against violence, early marriage and child labour.
" However, Lebanon comes to you in Brussels, one year on since London with a profound feeling of distress that I am certain you also share. The Syria conflict continues with an unprecedented history of bloodshed of innocent civilians. This includes attacks on hospitals and children in their schools. It creates yet more waves of exile across the Mediterranean, added to the Iraqi and Kurdish refugees fleeing violence, and the continued anguish of Palestinian refugees.
" This conflict threatens our region and global security, and the pressures on Lebanon's stability and resilience grow as we host so many refugees. London represented a paradigm shift in supporting host country stability and resilience, and aid has increased and diversified. Yet today, we still do not have sight of most aid allocations for the next academic year.
Ladies and gentlemen, let's look now into the challenges:
1) We must go into the September 2017 school year with multi-year funding for 2 to 4 years committed by May if we are to plan places in formal and non-formal education.
2) The RACE plan must be fully funded at 350 million dollars annually to ensure balanced support to access, quality, and systems strengthening for Lebanese and Syrians. A fully funded plan with flexible financing allows us to drive financial efficiencies.
3) We need to know exactly how many children we need to reach, where they live, and what learning levels they have acquired. This needs resumption of UNHCR refugee registration as well as tracking of refugee migration. Our unique child identification system will help this work greatly.
4) We need an acceleration of school infrastructure improvements, through construction and expansion, rehabilitation, and provision of equipment. There are clear needs and this is a visible win for host communities which instils political confidence.
5) Finally, we need to embrace new delivery partnerships to reach the most vulnerable children faster. The Lebanese Ministry of Education has launched a new process to select national and international NGO delivery partners, based on quality, experience, relevance, and cost effectiveness. We also call on the private sector for innovative partnerships that meet our priorities such as technology for real time data sharing between schools and the Ministry.
In closing, I have two big ambitions for our partnership in the future. First, that we can keep the success story of RACE alive. Second, together we will fulfil the hope we see in the eyes of the children, those who have come from Aleppo, from Kameshli, from Homs, from Daraa, from Damascus and from Raqaa, their eagerness to learn more than a language, their attachment to one another, to the united future of Syria, and the new bonds they have formed with their Lebanese friends."
Source: National News Agency