Supporting Catholic schools to ensure the future of Lebanese youth
AsiaNews receives the witness of Sr Bacima El Khoury, director of the Institute of the Antonine Sisters in Roumieh (Mount Lebanon). The average annual cost for each student is 450 euro. They are running out of extbooks, paper, notebooks, andphotocopier ink. Online schooling is increasing inequalities. Management costs 15 times more expensive than 2019. AsiaNews' call for donations to support Lebanon's Schools.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The economic crisis in Lebanon has impacted on the lives of schools and families, who are no longer able to meet the costs of education. Our institutes, like the rest of the country, are experiencing an unprecedented crisis: there are few that can accommodate more than 60 students, while prices are now exorbitant.
From the general strike of October 2019 to the new coronavirus pandemic, from the explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020 to the current third wave of Covid-19, there are many crisis factors. But the cost of living and galloping inflation are the main causes, with the dollar worth 23,000 Lebanese lira and the exchange rate set to rise in the coming months, forcing many businesses to close. This dramatic situation is exacerbated by institutional problems and widespread corruption, with political leaders committed only to satisfying personal interests, heedless of the suffering of the people.
The Lebanese education network is made up of 70% non-governmental institutions, which receive no aid from the state. At the heart of this network are the Catholic schools, a pillar and element of excellence that educates everyone without distinction: Christians, Muslims, Druze, boys or girls, the rich and the poor, in the big cities and in the countryside, in Beirut and in the other regions, using the French language and opening the new generations to the world, to culture, to a critical spirit.
The average annual cost is 450 euros per student, but in this critical situation, every day a school risks closing. There are many needs: from scholarships for poor families, to the supply of digital and paper textbooks, photocopy paper, notebooks, A4 and A5 sheets, ink for photocopiers, which has become a rare commodity, subsidies for fuel for generators and petrol for school buses, disinfectant products, to which are added operational costs (teacher training, machine maintenance, electronic platforms, lifts).
The students do not benefit from the ideal learning climate, some children eat dry bread for snacks. Our teachers do their best, but they have to cope with large class sizes - up to 30 pupils, to save money - and work free overtime for a meagre salary, despite the 30% increase granted at the beginning of the year (about USD 88).
E-learning has exacerbated learning disparities and difficulties, which is why some teachers have promoted remedial courses in their free time, dedicated to the most difficult students, forming small groups. Others, particularly critical, still attend school for face-to-face psychomotor or speech therapy sessions. As far as drop-outs are concerned, very few Christian families withdraw their children and, more often than not, struggle and sacrifice to allow them to continue their studies. Sometimes the schools themselves have allocated scholarships, but budget deficits have forced cuts and help from benefactors or private donors is urgently needed.
In Lebanon, a school's budget is prepared on the basis of Lebanese lira, even though ours is not an industrialised nation and depends mainly on the US dollar and prices are assessed in US currency. Before 2019, the budget was calculated on the exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese lira to the dollar, while now the value on the market ranges between 23 and 25 thousand lira.
The devaluation has led to a collapse in purchasing power, starting with salaries: a 2019 salary of three million Lire per month (equivalent to ,000) has lost 94% of its value. The budget at the beginning of the year changes as the exchange rate changes, making budget forecasts "ridiculous" as they loose all value. The price hike has serious repercussions on school supplies, fuel for generators - electricity in Lebanon is almost zero, we only get it for two or three hours a day - interactive whiteboards and heating. For example, a tonne of fuel costs 0, or 13.8 million Lebanese liras; in 2019, the cost was around 910,000 liras. This shows the increase, which is 15 or 16 times compared to two years ago and this applies to every item or primary good.
For all of these reasons, I turn to you dear readers, and ask you to support Lebanon. In our situation, even the widow's offering is welcome. Whatever your gift, God will repay you a hundredfold because you have helped His people. This difficult time will not last forever: protecting our schools also means supporting our mission, so that our families do not lose hope and our young people remain a 'generation of hope'.
This political, social and economic crisis swamping Lebanon that has prompted AsiaNews to launch a fundraising campaign for the benefit of Catholic schools, to support and guarantee at least the right to study for children and young people. Below please information on how you can support the cause.
How to donate to the AN04 Lebanon Emergency Fund
DONATE ON LINE
by credit card (Visa, CartaSì, Mastercard, American Express) or Paypal through the website donations.pimemilano.com/asianews
Choose from among the different campaigns: "AN04 - Lebanon Emergency".
made out to: Pime Onlus Foundation
Credito Valtellinese S.C. - P.zza San Fedele, 4 - 20121 MILAN
IBAN IT 11 W 05216 01630 000000005733
Institute identification code (BIC): BPCVIT2S
Causale: "AN04 Campaign - Lebanon Emergency".
n. 39208202 made out to
Pime Onlus Foundation
via Monte Rosa 81
20149 Milan, Italy
Specifying the reason for payment: "Campaign AN04 - Lebanon Emergency".
For donations by bank transfer or postal account, please always send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and for information to email@example.com confirming the transfer, specifying the reason for the donation, name, surname, tax code and address (useful data for receipts for tax deductions).