In Lebanon, the “second shift” isn’t reserved for adults working to make a living. There, you’ll find children in classrooms from 4 in the afternoon until 10 in the evening, working to get an education. These students follow those who attend from 9 am to 3 pm, in order to make use of existing classroom space round-the-clock, rather than building more.
Due to the recent influx of immigrants in face of the Syrian crisis, accommodating everyone into the public education system has been a challenge for teachers and students alike. Those who can afford the transportation to school at all are the lucky ones.
According to the United Nations, one in five people living in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee and more than half of Syrian refugees are under the age of eighteen. Most of these children have been out of school for months, some for years, and not all of them can afford the transportation to get to school.
But the people of Lebanon keep pushing forward and into the future.
With funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the American government supports these Lebanese public schools through the Developing Rehabilitation Assistance to Schools and Teacher Improvement (D-RASATI 2) project — a program managed by World Learning.
The goal is to support the Lebanese Ministry for Education and Higher Education in giving all students in Lebanon access to a high quality education — despite barriers. Recently, the project provided computer equipment to 126 public schools across Lebanon to advance the use of technology in the classroom. More than that, it provided on-the-job training to over 700 teachers on how to effectively incorporate the technology to support English, Arabic, and science education.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, David Hale, took time to celebrate the success of this program and reflect on the bigger picture.
To date, the United States has invested $150 million in Lebanese public schools. Hale suggested this investment is in something greater than any gadget — computer or tablet, pad or pod; it’s about the means by which we build citizens equipped to advocate for peaceable politics and governance.
In his remarks at the event in July, Hale noted “Technology is the great accelerator that drives the world forward. It touches every part of our lives, including education.”
Hale said that while the United States aid to Lebanon is well-known on the military front with resources given to protecting its borders. What is less-known but equally important, he said, is its commitment on the civilian side. Educational endeavors like this “are every bit as crucial to empowering youth to make sure that they have the shared values of stability, mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding their role in society.” He continued, “That is the best means we have to defeat extremism.”
A good reminder that foreign aid isn’t just about dollars in the present, it’s about sense for the future.