Lebanon seeks to boost Syrian school enrollment

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut


Syrian children play outside a tent in Bekaa's Bar Elias camp as they wait to attend the afternoon school session. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq]

Lebanon's Ministry of Education and Higher Education says it will continue to provide education to Syrian refugees during the 2018-2019 school year, with the number of Syrian students expected to rise from 220,000 to about 260,000.

Although some Syrian students are being placed in the regular morning sessions this year, priority for the morning slots is being given to Lebanese students, with the majority of Syrians attending the informal afternoon sessions.

The education of Syrian refugees in Lebanese schools "will continue in the 2018-2019 school year", said Sonia Khoury, who directs the ministry's programme management unit.

Registration for Lebanese students began September 19th, she told Al-Mashareq, with registration opening to Syrian refugees on September 25th.


Syrian refugee children wait to register at the public elementary school in Lebanon's Mazraat Yachou. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq] 


Syrian refugee children wait to register at the public elementary school in Mazraat Yachou. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq] 

"Unlike previous years, [Syrian students] will be included in basic formal education, or what is known as the morning school session," Khoury said.

But the priority has been to register Lebanese students for the morning session, after which the registration of Syrians for the remaining morning slots and the afternoon session has proceeded according to each school’s capacity, she added.

The ministry -- with UNICEF and other international organisations -- seeks to include Syrian students in the morning sessions to provide them with formal education, while continuing the informal afternoon programme, she said.

Education contingent on funding

In the 2017-2018 school year, 220,000 Syrian students were enrolled in Lebanese schools, Khoury said.

This year's goal is to provide education for 260,000 Syrians students in addition to the 265,000 Lebanese students, she said.

This is contingent, however, on accessing the funding allocated to Syrian children's education as part of the Reaching all Children with Education (RACE) accelerated education programme, Khoury said.

The goal of providing education for 260,000 students could be put on hold, she said, and "the ministry could settle for the same number as last year because of the delay by donor countries in paying the education dues for last year in full".

"The cost of registering the 265,000 Lebanese students and target of 260,000 Syrians is $148 million, of which only $100 million is on hand," she said.

Co-operation to provide education

UNICEF will "continue registering Syrian students for the afternoon session", said UNICEF education programme co-ordinator Soha Bou Chabke.

Registration fees will be covered for these students, as will transportation costs, which will be calculated based on the distance traveled, she told Al-Mashareq.

"Our aim as an organisation is to increase the number of Syrian students," she said, to the extent that this is possible, given the current funding gap.

Registration opened later for Syrian students as the "priority is to register Lebanese students, followed by foreign students born to Lebanese mothers and lastly Syrian and students of other nationalities", she said.

Co-operation is ongoing "with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education on a daily basis in order to provide education for students", she added.

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This is just talk. There is no enrollment in the morning or afternoon session without connections. Until now, they haven’t enrolled any of my children.


God willing, success will be for all!


What you’re saying isn’t true. I’m a Syrian citizen living in Shamstar. I have 16 children, nephews and nieces, but no school has accepted them. The school principal said we have to bring documents proving that our children had studied at a Lebanese school. What’s the guilt of my children if they aren’t given a chance to study? Please forgive me for my lengthy comment.


Please excuse me for God's sake!


My son hasn’t been enrolled till now at a school in Lebanon. He had first studied in Syria. What can I do now when no school has accepted him?


They didn't want to enroll my son because he didn't go to KG.


Unfortunately, much of this is inaccurate.


They didn’t want to enroll my son in the first year of school; they said they’ve finished enrolling children born in 2013.


I like it. However, those who have children who have been going to school in the morning session at public schools for 8 years, can the school refuse to provide KG education for their children in the morning session at the same school? The principal is saying they wouldn’t accept any more Syrians. My children are already at school. Where should I go with my daughter? Should I open a new school for her?!!! This is unfair.


These are lies to Syrian students. Those who have support and someone to back them up can have their children enrolled in the morning session. Meanwhile, students who used to go to morning school have now been transferred to the afternoon session.


My children have been going to the morning session of Jabir al-Sabah for 7 years. However, this year, they accepted one and didn’t enroll the other.