School closures in Lebanon have affected over 1.3 million students at all levels of education. The country is host to large numbers of refugees who are most at risk during the crisis. Educators are working with the government to implement the best available solutions and call for solidarity and support for the vulnerable.
The Public Primary Schools Teachers League in Lebanon (PPSTLL) is focussing its efforts on minimising the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on disadvantaged and displaced students and communities, many of whom live in cities with little access to healthcare services. According to Jawad Hussein, PPSTLL President, Lebanon’s duty to cater to vulnerable groups is particularly challenging at this time considering the political and economic crisis the country is facing. The public education system is also at risk of long-term damage.
A call for greater solidarity
PPSTLL has emphasized the need for greater solidarity in times of crisis and has called on all its members to donate to the COVID-19 fund established by the Ministry of Health of Lebanon. Those who can have been asked to provide food and assistance to those in need. “We are not turning our backs on the most vulnerable among us, instead we are looking for solutions as individuals and unions”, stated the PPSTLL President.
Delivering quality education to as many students as possible
In response to the learning crisis, the Ministry of Education has put in place distance education programmes. PPSTLL is involved in the development of the programmes, working closely with the Ministry of Education to provide advice and expertise. The Education International affiliate is determined to be part of the solution and has encouraged its members to actively contribute to the programmes. The approach is to “provide quality education for all, including marginalized groups”.
To ensure that the digital gap is not keeping students from learning, the national strategy has centred on television programmes. Educators are working to secure the delivery of educational content on television where it can be accessed by the largest number of students, including those who do not have an Internet connection and vulnerable groups, regardless of their status. The union called on its members to get involved in developing content and many have volunteered to prepare and provide the televised classes.
To secure interactive communication between teachers and students, the Ministry of Education has provided free online applications. However, the union has raised concerns regarding the lack of support for teachers, the digital divide that leaves some students unable to use these tools and the learning inequalities created. PPSTLL has encouraged teachers to reach out to parents over the phone and work on providing assignments, guidance and feedback to students.
Educators are determined to keep delivering quality education to all students. In the words of Manal Hdaife, a classroom teacher and active member of PPSTLL, “before the closures we had set up a double shift system in my school so that more children could attend. The situation we are facing is challenging but we will not be deterred. We will continue to work so that all children in Lebanon have access to education. No matter where they come from, they all deserve a good education and all the opportunities it brings.”