UNICEF actively supports children’s return to learning through non-formal education programme

UNICEF, with funds from the government of the United Kingdom, continues to grow its basic literacy and numeracy programme to prepare targeted children and youths to enter formal education in Lebanon

Simon Balsom
Alyson king with the youth, Mouvement Social team and UNICEF staff
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
04 August 2020

Long before the coronavirus COVID-19 closed the country’s schools, for a large number of children in Lebanon, particularly among the refugee population, the opportunity for regular education had long appeared nothing more than a vague hope. Many of these children lack even the most basic learning skills and, with the lockdown that accompanied the spread of the pandemic, they found themselves further denied their right to an education.

With the pandemic disproportionately affecting the lives of the young, UNICEF is playing a crucial role in supporting Lebanon’s most vulnerable children through a series of key initiatives. For those unable to read and write UNICEF, with funds from the government of the United Kingdom, has engaged with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and specialist NGOs in the country to create a basic literacy and numeracy programme to prepare targeted children and youths to enter formal education and, ultimately, vocational training.

So far, the project’s Youth Basic Literacy and Numeracy (YBLN) component – in cooperation with specialized local NGOs - has provided 24,499 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old who have missed out on years of learning with the opportunity to enter into non-formal education and later into skills training that enables them to be productive and generate an income.

Speaking while visiting the Bourj Hummoud centre of local NGO Mouvement Social, Alyson King, the United Kingdom’s Deputy Ambassador to Lebanon said; “We in the U.K. believe that every child – girl, boy, refugee, or from within the host community – has the right to an education and to safety. We want to support children – especially those who have had their education interrupted – gain access to the language and numeracy skills that they need, and also the life skills they need to success and to be able to play a full part in their community and to earn a living”.

With the gradual lifting of restrictions in June 2020 – and while firmly respecting WHO guidelines plus keeping remote options available for those who will not have access to the centre - through support from UNICEF and funded by U.K. Aid, Mouvement Social has now resumed many of its face-to-face learning and skills activities.

Alyson king talking with one of the youth
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
Alyson king talking with the youth
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

Abeer Abou Zaki, UNICEF Lebanon’s Adolescent Development Officer; “Through this YBLN programme we’re able to provide support to youths who are currently out of education. A non-formal education programme, we provide learning in Literacy and Numeracy  in addition to life skills in order to enable these youths to re-engage in a productive life after they have been forced to drop out of formal education”.

Meeting many of the youths enrolled at the centre, the Deputy Ambassador heard first-hand of the profound and positive effects the YBLN programme is having on lives.

For 18-year-old Shahed, it has delivered substantial life-improvements. She recalls, “When I first arrived, I couldn’t write and read. Now, after only a short time of attending, I see a sign and I know what it says. Today I can go into a pharmacy and know which medicine to get. Before this I used to face a lot of difficulties”.

Others were eager to share their own experiences – with all reporting improved literacy in their mother tongue, and some reflecting on how they’ve been able to also learn the basics of English as a second language too.

“We’re very proud of the work that we as the U.K. do in partnership with UNICEF and the international community making sure that education in Lebanon is reformed,” Alyson King added, also saying “and ensuring that every child has access to high quality and inclusive education to meet their needs for the future”.

During the session with Alyson king and movement social and UNICEF team
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
Alyson king talking with one of the youth
UNICEF2020/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon