Lebanon in 'education catastrophe' with children out of school
In crisis-hit Lebanon, the pandemic coupled with an economic downturn means that children left for months without schooling due to coronavirus restrictions may never return to the classroom, a UK-based charity warned.
"The social and economic crisis in Lebanon is turning into an education catastrophe, with vulnerable children facing a real risk of never returning to school," Save the Children said in a report published Thursday.
The risk is real not only for Lebanese families, more half of whom live in poverty, but also for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees who already struggled to access education before Lebanon's multifold crisis made it more difficult, it said.
"Poverty is a steep barrier to children's access to an education, as many families cannot afford learning equipment or have to rely on children to provide an income," the charity said.
More than 1.2 million children in Lebanon have been out of school since the country's coronavirus outbreak began last year, Save the Children said.
Those lucky enough to get any schooling received "an estimated maximum of 11 weeks of education," with even lower numbers for Syrian children, it added.
Meanwhile, the country's worst economic downturn since the 1975-1990 civil war has made "remote learning out of reach for more and more children", with families unable to afford electronic devices and a reliable-enough internet connection, the charity said.
Save the Children cited the example of an 11-year-old child identified as Adam, who shares a smartphone with his two sisters and has to go next door to access the internet.
The country's crisis has shown no signs of slowing down, with the Lebanese pound losing more than 85 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market in a devaluation that has eaten away at people's purchasing power.
"A large number of children may never get back into a classroom either because they have missed so much learning already or because their families can't afford to send them to school," said Jennifer Moorehead, the charity's Lebanon director.
"We are already witnessing the tragic impact of this situation, with children working in supermarkets or in farms, and girls forced to get married," she added.