Around a third of refugees (around 360,000) are located in the Bekaa Valley, often living in small makeshift or unofficial camps. Large camps are not permitted by the Lebanese government and as a result, informal settlements of 50-100 families have become commonplace. Across the country, refugees in the Bekaa Valley (and Akkar) face the most poverty, with parents often forced to take their children out of school and into full time work to earn a living. Many of the camps are still without basic services for children, including education.
The Lebanese Government has been working with the UN to provide education for all. The main policy has been to enrol refugees into the existing public education system, creating a 2nd shift provision for refugees and encouraging integration.
This has not been without its problems. In many areas, refugees vastly outnumber the Lebanese students and there is not the capacity to provide for everyone who needs it. Within the rural Bekaa Valley, public schools are sporadically placed, meaning that access is difficult, and it is estimated that there are more than 250,000 refugee children out of school.
There have also been reports of safety issues, harassment, violence and discrimination, which has led to a high dropout rate. Refugee children that do continue to attend struggle with the new and different curricula, language barriers and lack of appropriate infrastructure. There is low teacher capacity, overcrowding, lack of adequate sanitation facilities and limited catch up programmes.
All of these factors, faced by children who are also coming to terms with their own trauma and distress, are continuing to create barriers to education. Consequently there is a need for the provision of informal education for children living within the camps.
Our International Director, Rachel Bentley has just returned from visiting our partners in Lebanon. In the Bekaa Valley, we support five schools for Syrian refugee children. One is based in a Community Centre in Beirut, and the others are situated throughout a number of informal tented settlements.
Rachel said “This is the best I’ve seen the schools running. The team out there are brilliant and the children are progressing really well. The services at the Beirut Centre for refugees are expertly done, the clothes distribution there is not only efficient; catering for hundreds of families, but it ensures care and dignity. It’s more like a boutique than a handout”.
Despite the schools running so well, the future is looking bleak for the refugee population here. There has been a huge drop in international funding over the last year, and the outlook is uncertain for humanitarian support in 2018.
“I could see the impact of this funding crisis first hand”, said Rachel “There has been a long running psychosocial programme here for traumatised refugee children, it is based out of the Centre in Beirut. The work is funded and implemented by larger international organisations, but while I was there, our partners were told that the funding had been cut. They were only given one day’s notice. This is a dire situation for these children, who are especially in need of consistent care”.
UNCHR stated just last week that Syrian refugees in Lebanon are more vulnerable than ever, with more than half living in extreme poverty and over three quarters living below the poverty line.
Whilst there has been a marginal move amongst the population to return to Syria, this will be a long process, and life there is far from safe at present. Just last week there was a serious explosion in one of the Internally Displaced Camps across the border. “This place was regarded as a safe area” describes Rachel, “People have always been desperate to go home, but events like this are not encouraging any immediate, large scale return”.
Children on the Edge are continuing to support the refugee schools in Lebanon, and have had inspiring feedback from the parents, children and teachers involved. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, just click the buttons below.