HIGHER EDUCATION IN TIMES OF COLLAPSE – The perspective of project implementers and organisations
HOPES-LEB in partnership with the National Erasmus+ Office of Lebanon organised the dialogue “Higher Education in times of collapse – The perspective of project implementers and organisations” which took place on Thursday March 17, 2022
This gathering is the second of a series of stakeholder dialogues and meetings, launched in January 2022 and organised on a national level, bringing together professionals and academics, representatives of institutions and organisations as well as students, to further discuss the current situation in the higher education sector in Lebanon and its impact on students and education providers as well as to further explore further approaches and recommendations to better address the situation.
This dialogue was dedicated to smaller projects and the work of NGO’s which are already an important part of the educational landscape in Lebanon, especially in the provision of support for disadvantaged groups and in some marginalized regions.
Following welcome addresses, interventions of the following project representatives focused on the main challenges encountered during implementation, possible applied mitigation measures and lessons learned
- Véronique Kazpard, coordinator at the International Relations Office at the Lebanese University
- Sobhi Abou Chahine, Dean of Student Affairs at the Beirut Arab University (BAU)
- Rima Mattar, Deputy President for International Affairs and Global Initiatives at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK)
- Samer Sfeir, Executive director of shareQ NGO/ProAbled
- Assem Chreif, Co-founder and Head of programmes of the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Trainings (LOST)
The second session included a general discussion and a live poll with the participants which allowed to deepen the understanding of the needs and expectations of project implementers and organisations and to identify priorities and recommendations for the improvement of response mechanisms.
In the throes of a deeply rooted political and socio-economic crisis exacerbated since 2019, Lebanon has been struggling in the last two years with the repercussions of a manifold of strains including the COVID-19 pandemic, the August 2020 Beirut blast and the ever-evolving economic meltdown.
These overlapping crises emerge on the background of a turbulent history, a complex geopolitical context and the toll of the Syrian crisis, now in its eleventh year. Lebanon is with approximately one million registered individuals considered the country in the world with the highest per capita ratio of refugees from Syria.
The local unstable economy, political situation and growing social tensions have turned Lebanon in a confusing terrain quite difficult to navigate in when it comes to providing Lebanese youth and refugees from Syria with the necessary support to better access quality further and higher education opportunities.
Amidst the various restrictions, electricity blackouts, limited access to internet and rationed fuel and the surge in tuition fees, only a small percentage of the youth, from the host community and refugees from Syria as well, has the financial and technical means or the institutional access to continue higher education.
Despite the enormous efforts made, the impact of the economic distress caused by Lebanon’s financial crisis has had a major fall-out on Lebanon’s higher and further education institutions who are striving hard to preserve the continuity and quality of higher education which has for long periods of time been one of the great assets of Lebanon.
While it is impossible to anticipate long-term solutions given the rapid escalation of the situation in Lebanon, all protagonists agree that maintaining the availability and quality of education and higher education must be considered of paramount priority to prevent the emergence of a lost generation of students, an issue that will have lasting implications for their personal future and that of their countries as well.