The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted schooling for more than 1.2 million children in Lebanon, according to Al Jazeera. Now, the humanitarian organization Save the Children is warning of an “education catastrophe,” saying that many children may never return to school.
In a report titled “Lebanon Education in Crisis: Raising the Alarm,” Save the Children found that many Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian children have not been in school since October 2019, following protests, civil unrest, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It also said that the longer children are out of school, the more likely it is that the country will see an increase in child labor and child marriage.
Literacy rates in Lebanon have risen steadily over the years, according to data tracker Index Mundi. International organizations like UNICEF have worked to put education programs in place to highlight that all children have the right to learn, such as through the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund. (Disclosure: ECW is a Global Citizen partner.)
But in the fall of 2019, countrywide protests against government corruption and economic conditions disrupted Lebanon’s ability to safely teach children in school, according to the New York Times. By the time the government issued a lockdown in March 2020 to contain the coronavirus, millions of people in Lebanon were at risk of going hungry and accessing resources, according to Human Rights Watch.
Last year’s explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon, killing at least 160 people and injuring about 6,000 others, according to World Vision. The effects of the explosion, coupled with the country’s poor economic conditions, displaced families and put Lebanese children at risk of never returning to school.
“Children in Lebanon already had lower rates of literacy and numeracy than the average in countries across the Middle East,” said Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Lebanon country director, in a statement. “The longer children are out of school, the more they will fall behind.”
Save the Children has pointed out that some families may not be able to afford sending their children back to school once it is safe to do so. The organization has called for global attention and action on the education crisis in Lebanon so that all children can access their right to education, regardless of background or gender.