By Nabil Costa
In a bygone golden era, Lebanon enjoyed an illustrious educational realm, where private and public schools thrived and competed for excellence, and education was synonymous with identity, eminence, and sustenance. And despite the countless adversities Lebanon went through the past decades, its educational system managed to brave most hurdles and hardships and maintain remarkable stability. Lebanese private schools played an outstanding role in elevating the quality and standards of education, and public schools strived to keep up with these models, and in most cases, stunningly succeeded.
Before they knew it however, the Lebanese found themselves musing over these olden days of educational ascendancy over the Middle East! The catastrophic economic crisis has dealt a severe blow to education, and the impact has since left schools reeling. As a result of the instability of the country and the economy, teachers’ salaries have devalued, leading to qualified teachers leaving the country and the educational field for better income and financial stability. Lebanon has also witnessed brain drain of students who lost hope in a better education here. The majority of the middle-class has disappeared because of the depreciation of the Lebanese pound (LBP). For numerous families, education has become an unaffordable luxury due to the economic crisis.
Around 8% of private school students transferred to public schools, not counting the students who discontinued their education. With public schools now in shambles, imagine having your kids suddenly out of school. This includes 170,000 Syrian refugee students in the afternoon shift. This year, public schools only operated for 3 months for the Lebanese students and left the Syrians with barely any education. Public school teachers have been on strike since December 22, 2022, until the Ministry of Education gives heed to their request of increasing their salaries. Today, with the highest inflation ever, the average salary of a public-school teacher is LBP 3,000,000 which is currently worth $30. LSESD through MERATH, has been providing education for out of school children, for more than 15 years. At their Education Center, MERATH has taken the initiative in educating Syrian refugee students, many who have never been to school.
While battling the repercussions of the economic crisis, private schools, which used to attract about 70% of the student population, have sustained considerable damage. They have managed to keep education ongoing in Lebanon, despite the discouragement and exodus of skillful teachers. With many families struggling to afford private schools’ tuition, students with special needs have been left stranded. Most schools were led to close or limit their special education departments due to the high cost of hiring special educators and therapists, further restricting the few services already provided for students with learning difficulties. SKILD has supported several private and public schools to maintain their special education departments. For parents who cannot afford private therapy elsewhere, SKILD provides subsidized services in different locations across Lebanon.
BBS welcomed more students this year than any other year by subsidizing the tuition which was partly dollarized, in response to the critical situation. However, we offered financial aid to the most vulnerable families who are not able to keep up since BBS desires to stand by the families that have been there for generations. This year, BBS being an inclusive school, has embraced 140 students with special needs (44 more than last year). BBS went through a difficult and bumpy three-years yet thanks to the support of our partners, we have been able to support our teachers and staff by supplement their salaries.
In a time where education has been hit hard in Lebanon, there is hope because there are still many teachers who believe in education and are pouring their hearts to nurture the future generation of leaders. We are grateful for partners who are standing by us, supporting the mission in prayer and deed. Please continue praying for Lebanon, the students and the revival of the education sector.