The explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4 killed at least 180 people, injured more than 6,000, and damaged approximately 160 schools, drastically affecting the ability of students to access education.
The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has said that the destruction “could deprive more than 85,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese students of the right to education.”
Prior to the explosion, Beirut was already dealing with overlapping financial and health crises that had been exacerbated by the coronavirus. The school system had made plans to move learning online, and then the explosion created a full-blown educational crisis.
The city has elected to delay the start of the school year to Sept. 29 as it tries to recover from the blast.
Many schools were physically damaged in the explosion. Public schools in Ashrafieh, a district downtown close to the explosion, are at risk of collapse after the explosion shattered windows and knocked down doors.
“We are trying to help as best we can, but our capacity is very limited,” Tarek al Majzoub, Lebanon’s education minister, told France 24.
The President of the American University in Beirut, Fadlo R. Khurdi, issued a statement just a day after the explosion confirming that the university’s campuses had also been damaged.
“We shall assess and repair the damage created by this massive blast, so as to continue to provide world-class patient care and, on the resumption of classes, the unique and transformative AUB experience that this university is renowned for,” Khurdi wrote.
But there are other challenges facing educators and families, too. As more schools shift to online learning, for example, not all students will have the necessary technological devices to keep up with lesson plans, according to UNESCO.
On Sept. 1, UNESCO held a conference with the Global Education Coalition members to discuss cooperation and commitments to support continued learning in Lebanon.
“We must focus on education, because it is a major concern for families and it is where Lebanon’s future will be played out,” Audry Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General, said in a statement.