Girls’ education in Lebanon not only includes its female citizens, but also the female refugees who have recently become part of the country. Lebanon hosts almost one million registered Syrian refugees, in addition to other unregistered refugees from Syria, Palestine and Iraq.
This huge influx of people has had a negative impact on the country’s education system, which is already facing severe challenges. All these things have caused major setbacks for girls’ education in Lebanon, which suffers from gender inequality and social discrimination against women.
Girls’ Participation in Education
The net enrollment rates of female and male students in Lebanon vary from primary to tertiary education, with the ratio being almost equal in primary education. However, in the secondary and tertiary stages, there is a gender gap, with the percentage of girls attending schools and colleges higher than boys.
Although these statistics show progress, traditional stereotyping and the age-old patriarchal culture still prevents some girls from participating in the education system. In particular, girls from poor and less fortunate families are still considered a burden and are married off at an early age. Compulsory free education has not yet been imposed by the government of Lebanon, making the situation more difficult for girls who are eager to study but unable to do so.
The Impact of the Refugee Crisis on Girls’ Education in Lebanon
The huge inflow of refugees in recent years has put enormous pressure on the existing public education system, which is fragile and has insufficient capacity to educate all of the children in Lebanon. Gaining access to formal education is hard for the refugees and is even more difficult for girls coming from conservative backgrounds whose families disapprove of co-ed education, as there are few girls-only schools in Lebanon.
A Helping Hand Provided by UNICEF and Other NGOs
In 2010, the National Adult Education Program, with the help of the Lebanon Young Women’s Christian Association, introduced literacy programs which have aided almost 800 women in Lebanon. In 2017, the Kayany Foundation built a new girls’ school for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa valley, making formal education accessible to girls whose families will not allow them to attend co-ed schools.
UNICEF has funded a wide range of programs and facilities to educate girls in Lebanon irrespective of their nationality. These include:
- Fees, stationery and transportation for school-going children.
- A workshop for the Girls Got IT event, where girls are encouraged to take part in IT, technology and science fields.
- Innovative workshops like 3D modeling, where teenage girls are using user-friendly software models to visualize and build their own “Smart Cities”.
- A psychosocial support curriculum known as My Safety, My Wellbeing, where adolescent girls are equipped with the knowledge and skills to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and child marriage, as well as cope with health issues like hygiene, stress and reproductive health.
The Malala Fund, which was founded by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate, has funded projects undertaken by the Kayany Foundation. Together, they have established the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School in Bekaa. This school provides quality secondary education for almost 200 Syrian girls residing in informal refugee camps in the area.
UNICEF, along with other nonprofit organizations, are making efforts to improve girls’ education in Lebanon so that they can learn the skills they need to better their lives.
– Mahua Mitra