Press release

Under Li Beirut, UNESCO mobilizes support, partnerships and resources for Lebanon’s Five-Year Education Plan

Beirut, 10 November 2021 – UNESCO’s education officials and the Lebanese Minister of Education and Higher Education, Abbas El Halabi, held a meeting today with high-level representatives from UNESCO Member States at UNESCO’s HQ in Paris, in margin of the 41st session of the General Conference. The meeting aimed at mobilizing international partnerships and resources, as well as technical and institutional support towards the achievement of the Five-Year General Education Plan for Lebanon (5YP), and as an integral part of UNESCO’s flagship initiative Li Beirut. A letter of intent was signed at the end of the event by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, to confirm UNESCO’s further support to the 5YP, through technical assistance expertise and specialized support for the actual implementation of several key components of the 5YP.

The 5YP has been developed by the Ministry of Education with specialized expertise from UNESCO Beirut Office and the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning. It has been launched by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Lebanon in August 2021, during the visit of the UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education Stefania Giannini. It is the first nationally led education sector plan for Lebanon and will allow supporting a more resilient education system through coordinated action around strategic objectives and critical reforms. The plan focuses on the public sector while seeking synergies with the private school sector, on opportunities to improve access and learning outcomes, and on providing a framework for public-private initiatives that will bring innovation to the delivery of education services. In the signed letter of intent, UNESCO has committed to providing additional specialized support to the 5YP, through technical assistance aimed at ensuring high quality coordination, aid harmonization, progress reporting, monitoring and evaluation. It also states that UNESCO has made available core resources to respond to the tasks at hand, and has started the recruitment of experts in full coordination with the ministry and will continue to expand its support.

In his speech, Minister Abbas El Halabi said “with the 5YP, we are moving from a crisis response mode into medium and long-term interventions”. He cited the pandemic, the Syrian refugees’ crisis and the Beirut port blasts, as ongoing crisis that affected the education sector in Lebanon, thanking UNESCO for its role in rehabilitating more than a 100 school under Li Beirut. He explained: “Our 5YP is the bearer of an inclusive global approach, the preservation of the quality of education in the public and private sectors but also the sustainability of the present economic models, while staying aware of the changes for the preservation of quality plurilingualism. This plan will provide equal opportunities for all children residing on Lebanese territory to access quality education, and fully takes into account marginalized or vulnerable populations, migrant students or students in need.”

“We are in the process of developing a similar plan for higher education with the support of UNESCO, he added, but I am well aware that the action of the Ministry is largely dependent on the technical and financial involvement of all donors and that their support to the school sector is essential and decisive in the national reconstruction process. The preservation and development of our national education system, as well as the future of all our children, are my top priorities, hence the importance of the coordination role of UNESCO”.

Addressing the participants, UNESCO ADG of Education Stefania Giannini reminded that “there is a genuine risk of a learning catastrophe in Lebanon; vulnerable children and youth may never return to school”. “As an international community we cannot let this happen, she said. We must urgently work together to put the Lebanese education system back on track by protecting and increasing financing to the sector. The country requires a mid to long-term strategy that prioritizes education as a driver of sustainable development. With the 5YP, we have a well-designed, realistic and comprehensive strategy to meet the needs of Lebanon’s children and youth. The presence of one inclusive sector wide education response plan led and owned by the Government and signed off by all key partners is the only solution to effectively address the complexity of the current crisis.”

A special guest of the event, Nasser Faqih representing Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, highlighted the fact that “Lebanon needs the world’s attention”. “It is a country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita and invests in education for both refugees and marginalized children, while facing multiple crisis on its own, he said. This 5YP provides a roadmap and incentive for the international community to concretely support children and youth on the soils of Lebanon to access a continuous quality education, which is a fundamental requirement for Lebanon to stay strong, rebuild their future. This is the opportunity to show international solidary. If not now, when?”

In her remarks, Costanza Farina, Director of UNESCO Office in Beirut, described the 5YP as “the first concrete achievement of Li Beirut’s new strategic approach”, which was presented on 29 October in an Information Meeting at UNESCO’s HQs, and where the actual results of the initiative were reported and its vision for the future. Farina considered that “UNESCO was privileged to have supported the development of the 5YP.”

The session included a presentation of the plan by Fadi Yarak, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and remarks by representatives of Member States.

Lebanon has been responding to major shocks which include the Syria crisis, which brought over 1.2 million Syrians displaced in the country between 2011 and 2015. This was followed by the socio-economic instability as of 2019, coupled with, the COVID 19 pandemic. The devastating impact of the Beirut Port blasts on August 4, 2020 added an additional adverse dimension to the very precarious situation. The level of poverty and the degree of vulnerability in the Lebanese, displaced and refugee communities have been increasing as a result. A growing proportion of children living in Lebanon is at risk of losing or never realizing their right to access quality education.

 

Li Beirut is an international flagship initiative launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in the aftermath of the explosions, on August 27, 2020, to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.