'I Want To Study': Lebanon Crisis Cancels School For Many
Muhammad Irfan 1 month ago Mon 17th May 2021 | 08:50 AM
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 17th May, 2021 ) :In a camp for Syrian refugees in east Lebanon, Mohammad and his three sisters fear they will be out of school for a third consecutive year because remote learning is out of reach.
"Look at my phone. How do you expect my son to study on it?" asked his father Abdel Nasser, sitting cross-legged inside the family's tent in the Bekaa Valley.
"The screen is cracked... and I have no internet." Eleven-year-old Mohammad and his siblings are among tens of thousands of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian children who have been left for months without schooling due to coronavirus restrictions.
An accelerating economic crisis means they may never return to school in what rights groups are calling an "education catastrophe", especially affecting refugees who already struggled to access learning before the pandemic.
"We can't afford to buy a cellphone for everyone. We must first be able to feed our children," said their mother Shamaa.
Mohammad's first school year coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought all classes to a halt by the second term.
"He doesn't even know how to multiply one by one," his father said.
"But now my parents can't afford to give me an online education." More than 1.2 million children in Lebanon have been out of school since the country's coronavirus outbreak began last year, the UK-based charity Save the Children says.
It warned last month that a large number of children may never get back into a classroom, either because they have already missed so much school or because their families can't afford to enrol them.
Lebanon's economic crisis is at its worst since the 1975-1990 civil war, with more than half the local population now living in poverty.
Poverty rates are even higher among Syrians, with 90 percent of families barely able to survive.
"Some Syrian children have had to give up their studies to work and help their families," she told AFP.
"We think the real number is higher than that," she added, estimating that more than half of Syrian school-aged children were currently out of the classroom.
Inside a cramped apartment in the eastern Beirut suburb of Burj Hammoud, 11-year-old Pamela points to a keyboard -- the only thing that remains from a desktop computer destroyed during last summer's huge Beirut port explosion.
"So I started to follow lessons on my cellphone," Pamela said.
As she has impaired vision, a small screen was already a nuisance.
But then power outages lasting up to 18 hours a day also left her struggling to keep her phone alive and connected to the internet.
She decided to drop out.
"I was disgusted with online education, I couldn't take it anymore," she said.
Her father, an out-of-work taxi driver, said he had wanted Pamela to drop out months ago.
"I don't give a damn about education or this country," he said.
But Pamela hasn't entirely abandoned hopes of returning to school.
"I want to study so that I can get a decent job later and be able to help my parents."