British Minister: Lebanon’s generosity should be matched by further international support

Rory Stewart, the UK Minister of State for International Development visited Lebanon on Thursday and Friday of this week, ahead of the Brussels ‘Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region’ scheduled 4-5 April, a press release by the British Embassy in Beirut indicated.

In the Bekaa and Beirut, MP Stewart saw how the UK is helping Lebanese host communities cope with the impact of hosting large numbers of refugees, and how children in public schools are benefitting from free, quality education, supported by UK Aid.

Minister Stewart welcomed Lebanon’s participation in the forthcoming Brussels Conference, where we expect the international community to increase efforts to build the resilience of countries neighbouring Syria, including Lebanon.

He also met Minister of Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of State for the Displaced Mouien Merehbi, MP Bahia Hariri and Advisers to Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

During a roundtable on non-formal education with Minister Marwan Hamadeh, MP Bahia Hariri, the head of the Parliamentary Commission for Education, and education stakeholders, Minister Stewart emphasised the importance of effective non-formal education to equip children with the literacy and numeracy standards needed to join the formal system. The UK is investing in a Pound 60m programme with UNICEF, which will help 100,000 children access quality non-formal education over the 4 next four years, along with child protection services. He and Minister Hamadeh committed that the Syria conference goal of every child in quality education is achieved by increasing financing and tracking learning levels.

Minister Stewart also visited an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa. UNHCR officials briefed about the difficult circumstances faced by the refugees and how they are helping the most vulnerable, with UK support.

As for the local community, at the municipality the minister heard about the brand new flood retaining wall and public market constructed with UK support which is changing the daily lives of 8,500 people in Bar Elias village.

Rory Stewart, accompanied by Ambassador Hugo Shorter, Minister Marwan Hamadeh and MP Bahia Hariri met teachers and students at Furn El Chebbak public middle school. He heard first-hand about how UK support is providing free school registration to hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Syrian children and catch-up classes to children who have been out of school for years. These initiatives support the Ministry of Education’s ambitious and innovative ‘Reaching All Children With Education II’ plan, which also includes improvements to infrastructure and quality of teaching in public schools.

Speaking at the end of the visit, Minister Rory Stewart said:

“I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the Lebanese people, under difficult circumstances. I truly believe that the Lebanese are doing the Syrians – and the world – a great act by temporarily hosting the refugees in their country. This should be matched by further international support to meet the needs of both the Lebanese and Syrians.”

Minister Hamadeh said:

“Britain is almost the only country supporting the non-formal education programme that is crucial to introduce letters and numbers in Arabic and English or Arabic and French to illiterate students from different age groups. We are all cooperating to face the gravity of the Syrian displacement and look forward with our UK partners and the international community for the safe return of refugees to their country. We thank the British government for its serious commitment to support Lebanon, reinforcing the infrastructure and assisting the ministry in its plan. He added: ‘There are over 90,000 unregistered births amongst refugees including those with special needs.”

“I hope that more donors will take part and increase international funding to Lebanon so that it can reach its goals set out to receive around 100,000 new refugee students within the formal, non-formal, vocational and technical systems.”

The European Union will host a major international conference on Syria on April 4 and 5, entitled ‘Syria and the region: supporting the future of Syria and the region’, co-chairing the event with the United Nation, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

Source: National News Agency