The importance of education is difficult to argue, but it is also becoming more and more apparent that education positively shapes social identity and boosts personal development. It is not only a fundamental right and a tool for use in the pursuit of a better life, it is also at the core of the UN global agenda to end poverty by 2030 and to pursue a sustainable future. All member states adopted this agenda and have set out to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.  With UN data showing that 57 million children around the world remain out of school, this is a tall order.

Around 35% of registered refugees in Lebanon are children aged between 5 and 17 who are entitled to an education. According to the AUB Policy Institute, for the 2014/2015 academic year only 106,795 refugees of the 403,100 targeted had been enrolled in schools. Furthermore, the refugees who managed to access formal education were faced with many challenges, essentially transport cost, bullying in schools and challenges with regards to the language of instruction. These challenges, among others, caused many Syrian refugees to drop out of school, reaching a dropout rate of 70% in the 2011-2012.  For those who manage to remain in school, their learning is limited to half of each school day, with no access to extracurricular activities such as art, music or sport.

Nonformal Education Centres such as ours offer remedial classes to students within the public sector, accelerated learning programs to ease the integration of the refugees in the Lebanese system, and basic literacy and numeracy for children who have never been to school.  However, currently the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) prohibits the opening of formal schools specifically for refugees and has held back accreditation and certification to the refugees enrolled in programmes run by NGOs.

Al Madad Foundation sees education as a way to help emancipate and empower those most vulnerable and excluded. In times of crisis and disaster, where the most vulnerable are unable to cope with their circumstances and often are forced to choose other priorities, education programs are most needed; and for AMF’s founders, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region holds a special status.