Rehabilitating schools, restarting classroom learning
The explosions devastated a large swathe of the city, including numerous schools. UNICEF swiftly set about supporting the rehabilitation efforts to get children back to classrooms as soon as possible
The explosions in the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 devastated a large swathe of the city, including numerous schools. UNICEF swiftly set about supporting the rehabilitation efforts to get children back to the classroom as soon as possible.
Piles of rubble and broken glass littered the grounds of numerous schools, which were left without doors and window following the explosions. Rehabilitating damaged schools was yet another challenge for the nation’s education system, which was already reeling from an economic crisis and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ensuring children have access to education is a key priority for UNICEF. Education provides children with opportunities for the future, and a sense of normalcy for both children and parents. It also provides a feeling of hope and a safe space for children experiencing trauma.
The explosions damaged more than 160 schools in Beirut, affecting around 85,000 school-age children, adolescents and young people enrolled in public, private and technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools.
“In addition to damage to buildings and educational infrastructure, the explosions also increased the risk that children, especially the most vulnerable, would not be able to return to school and learn," says Atif Rafique, Chief of Education in UNICEF Lebanon. "We needed to exert every effort to rehabilitate schools as quickly as possible amid the chaos and devastation that surrounded them."
Eight-year-old Mohammed Awad, for one, was eager to return to lessons. “I love school,” he bubbles. “As soon as it reopened, I was able to see my friends again, and my life of learning restarted."
Sisters Mira, 12, and Amal, 13, helped clear debris at their school in Achrafieh in the days following the explosion. “We’ve been going there for seven years," Amal says. "It was like our second home. How could we not be part of the clean-up?”
However, unable to return for the start of the school year in September 2020, they lament missed class time. “Studying online is okay, but school is better," reflects Mira. "Nothing replaces the experience of learning in a classroom,” she says.
With resources rapidly mobilized to get lightly to moderately damaged schools back in operation as soon as possible, larger-scale reconstruction and rehabilitation were effectively coordinated with UNESCO and other partners.
UNICEF’s intervention helped get Beirut’s schools back in shape and ready to welcome students to the classroom when full-time education restarted.