Children across Lebanon are bearing the cumulative weight of a succession of crises, resulting in one of the worst economic collapses in recent history. According to reports, more than half the population is now living below the poverty line, and with the situation showing no signs of resolution, there is a very high risk that even more families will be unable to cover their basic needs.
For this project, AMF’s slightly unusual decision to offer private sector support was based on a number of unique circumstances. Following 18 months of at-home learning due to the Covid pandemic, students then faced the further disruption of over a year of teacher strikes and as well as the lack of basic funding caused by the country’s current financial crisis and chaotic political situation, meaning that the doors of state schools have remained closed. However, almost two-thirds of the country’s children attend private schools, most charging very modest fees, and which educate over 330,000 Lebanese and 200,000 Syrian refugee students each year. Despite facing the same economic hardships, these institutions have managed to continue to educate pupils, be it under very challenging conditions.
AMF has chosen to focus on a number of these schools, located in the Beirut casas of Metn and Baabda and inhabited mostly by poor to middle income families, which are usually deemed ineligible for assistance as they do not fall within what most aid organisations consider the most vulnerable, and most familiar, regions of Lebanon. Our conversations with headteachers highlighted the urgency of helping those struggling local families whose decimated salaries mean their ability to continue to contribute financially to their children's education is severely limited. These areas of the city were also seriously impacted by the 2020 Beirut Port explosion, yet when AMF visited in May 2023 we were told that, despite the significant sums raised internationally for relief, assistance had still not been received to repair the obviously extensive damage to the school buildings.
As well as easing the burden of the economic situation, allowing children to remain in a familiar, safe space when the rest of their lives are so uncertain, and providing them with an education upon which to build a better future, fall exactly within what AMF always aims to achieve. We have therefore made the decision to extend what was originally viewed as an “emergency” project, and in 2023-24 will enhance our support to not only pay tuition fees for children whose parents could not otherwise afford them, but also to fund other essential work within the schools which will benefit all pupils.