183 education facilities damaged or destroyed by the blasts, affecting over 77,000 children and youth as new school year approaches
BEIRUT, 16 September 2020 – Urgent action and increased support are vital to ensure that all children affected by the Beirut Explosions can access education when the new school year starts later this month, UNICEF said today, one month after two massive explosions tore through the city. At least 163 public and private schools were damaged by the explosions – impacting over 70,000 students and 7,600 teachers. In addition, 20 TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) schools were damaged, impacting approximately 7,300 students.
Ensuring children have access to education is a key priority for UNICEF. Education not only provides children with opportunities for the future, it can also provide children and their parents with a sense of normalcy, return a feeling of hope for the future and provide a safe space for children who are experiencing trauma. An estimated 600,000 children live within a 20-kilometre radius of the blast and could be suffering negative short-term and long-term psychological impacts.
To coincide with the launch of a short report -“Everything around me is in ruins”-highlighting the impact of the explosions on children and families in Beirut and UNICEF’s response to date, UNICEF called on the international community to urgently scale up support for education for children and families in Beirut.
“When disasters hit, education can provide a vital lifeline to children whose lives have been turned upside down, providing a safe-space when in school and a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo. “Therefore, we are incredibly concerned by the substantial damage sustained by schools in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods and the impact this could have for children. School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic adds a further challenge but it is essential that we find urgent solutions to get children back to learning – also remotely- as soon as possible.”
Based on initial assessments of schools within a 20-kilometre radius of the blast by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education thus far, approximately 80 per cent of schools have sustained light to moderate damage and 20 per cent have sustained heavy damage. Resources are being rapidly mobilized to begin rehabilitation and get light to moderately damaged schools back in operation as soon as October together with UNESCO and other partners.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools plan to implement a blended approach involving both remote and face-to-face learning. However, these plans are further complicated by the impact of the blasts. As many homes were destroyed and families were forced to relocate, limited access to learning materials and connectivity need to be urgently addressed ahead of the imminent start of the 2020/21 school year. The most vulnerable children did not have learning materials and connectivity to start with and are at further risk of prolonged delay to access learning and even possibly drop out of school. Families who lost homes and livelihoods are also facing financial obstacles to enroll and support the education of their children.
UNICEF is working with its partners in areas affected by the explosions to support rehabilitation of damaged schools and replacement of furniture and equipment, promote school safety guidelines, train teachers in psychosocial support, and coordinate on the distribution of education supplies and early childhood development kits to teachers and caregivers. UNICEF is also looking for innovative solutions for remote learning with increased connectivity and access to electronic devices.
UNICEF’s response to meet other urgent needs of affected children has included so far: