According to the UNHCR, Lebanon is currently hosting approximately one million Syrian refugees, half of which are children. Over 252,000 Syrian refugee children are of school-age, but only 30% are actually enrolled in school.

To assess the underlying causes of this situation, Education International and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung have decided to conduct a survey, in collaboration with the League of Public Primary School Teachers (PPSTL), the League of Public Secondary School (LPESPL) and the Teachers Syndicate of Lebanon (TSL).

Following a one-day planning meeting with all affiliates in May 2016 aiming to define the objectives, scope and methodology of the survey, it was administered during four regional consultation workshops  between October and November 2016 in the Bekaa region, South Lebanon, Beirut/Mount Lebanon and North areas, bringing together a total of 213 teachers and administrative staff.

The analysis of the questionnaires allows for a comprehensive understanding of factors preventing Syrian refugee children from accessing education, such as the lack of spaces in public schools or the dire financial situation of Syrian families to afford transportation costs and resulting in children working to support the households’ expenses.

Respondents also highlighted a series of factors provoking absenteeism and dropout amongst Syrian refugee children, such as the language barrier related to the implementation of a multilingual Lebanese curriculum, the low education level of Syrian children and parents and the interruption of education for a long period of time due to conflict and displacement.

The study shows that only 55 per cent of surveyed teachers and staff had participated in professional development and training initiatives in the last two years although the presence of refugee children in class had impacted their teaching and assessment methods.

Overall, the survey shows the relationship between access to quality education for refugee children and the needed reforms of the Lebanese education system, beyond current policies and programmes, in order to improve access to schools, learning environments, teaching and learning processes as well as the working conditions of Lebanese teachers and school staff.

Following the publication of the report of the survey, a series of workshops will be organized in collaboration with all participating education unions to develop advocacy strategies based on the evidence collected through the survey.

The report of the survey is available here.

By Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly-in 1966. It is 21 March, the anniversary of the 1960 attack on a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. Police killed 69 people. To call brutal carnage “racial discrimination” strikes me as a gross understatement. It is like considering torture to be a form of harassment.

However, that may serve as a good point of departure to examine racism, racial discrimination, bigotry and other injustices. Eliminating racial discrimination may not be completely achievable, but progress can and has been made. Eliminating racism is more difficult.

South Africa and the US illustrate that point. Both had institutionalised racism with apartheid and segregation, respectively.

In the United States, legal racial discrimination has been eliminated, but racism and discrimination have not. Changes in the legal system in the US did not eliminate racism in the South or in the North.

In South Africa, apartheid has no longer exists in the law, but there is still racial discrimination. Racism is still alive and well.

In both countries, legal changes constitute monumental progress and have affected attitudes. Some changes, however, are only skin deep.

The roots of racism in both countries have been revived and refreshed by hostility to migrants and refugees. And, some attacks recall Sharpsville. The rebirth of white supremacism in the US and the riots against migrants and refugees in South Africa indicate that progress is neither permanent nor irreversible.

It is astonishing to witness fear reshape the political and social topography. Fear is the most politically potent not where the most migrants are found, but where there are few. It is fear of the unknown, fear of the “other”.  It is the fear of the imagined monster hiding under the bed.
Fear is irrational and toxic. As the 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke said, “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

In part of the world, the Great Depression of the 1930s, spawned totalitarianism. Fear was the weapon of choice and fear was the blanket that suffocated democracy.

By contrast, the crisis in the United States had the opposite effect. The newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the bleakest days of the crisis, said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigour has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

During the Great Depression, the United States had a bumper crop of populists, demagogues, and totalitarians of the Right and the Left, but there was a democratic and emotional alternative combined with political will. It defined America, brought people together, and offered hope.

Reason is not the vaccine against fear. It is only other powerful, but positive emotions that can neutralise fear and give space to reason.

Children, left to their own devices, are emotional. Education can develop those emotions into values that create community rather than scattered isolated individuals, build trust rather than alienation, and enhance humanity rather than stripping it of its value and dignity. 

Many EI member organisations are fighting intolerance, hate, and all forms of bigotry in the classroom to bridge gaps and build understanding. Many are improving and deepening citizen education. They are fostering acceptance, appreciation of differences, and integration.

There are a lot of different ways to view integration. To me, it does not mean that everybody must be the same or in perfect conformity with host nation cultures. Diversity has great value and is worthy of celebration and protection. It enriches and enhances culture. But, it must respect universal human rights. As the Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen put it, "multiculturalism must serve liberty.”

There are a lot of stories about the latest generation of more sensitive, “friendly” robots in the service economy. I sometimes wonder if there will be a convergence between cutting edge technology and some incarnations of education “reform.” Will the robots being programmed to be more like humans come together with humans being programmed to be more like robots?

Education on auto-pilot or driven by algorithms or forcing square pegs into round holes will not combat racial discrimination or build the future. Humanity at its splendid best, can only be developed and inspired by human beings. And, that is, first and foremost, the contribution of highly qualified, dedicated professional teachers.  

Tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, curiosity, openness and respect for others cannot be imposed or force fed.  It will, rather, be part of and contribute to the adventure and excitement of learning.
Good education shines light in dark places and shapes more complete, well-rounded young people. So equipped, they may even put older people on their best behaviour and, together, build more decent societies where all can live their lives as successes, not failures. 

20 February is United Nations World Day of Social Justice and the University and College Union is supporting the One Day Without Us mobilisation which invites supporters to celebrate the contribution migrants make by taking part in a unifying action: at 1pm all migrants and their supporters are invited to link arms and/or hold up placards, take photos and post them on social media using the hashtags #ucu and #1DayWithoutUs.

Check the live wall of all initiatives related to the #1DayWithoutUs campaign on UCU's website: https://www.ucu.org.uk/onedaywithoutus

The UCU also invites supporters to ask their MP to recognise and protect the enormous contribution EU academic staff and students make to the UK's higher education and research sectors.

This action is part of a broader UCU campaign "We are international" aiming to defend the rights of EU Nationals, considering the Brexit vote and its implications. All branches are being asked to take action in this mobilisation, by setting branch policy, seeking and promoting agreement from key local stakeholders (eg, management, student unions etc), as well as recruiting and organising EU nationals and other international staff. A guide for UCU branches and members as well as campaign materials (posters, template letter to university management, model branch motion, etc.) are available on the UCU website.

 

The National Tertiary Education Union condemns US president Donald Trump’s executive order suspending visas for nationals from seven Muslim majority countries. It shared the concerns raised by academic and university communities worldwide that this extreme order poses a direct threat to intellectual and academic freedom, and academic exchange and collaboration.
The union urged Australian university communities to condemn these attacks upon the free movement of students and staff.
A national petition was launched which calls on the leaders of Australian universities to support academic freedom, human rights and equity in diversity, by:

  • Taking a united public stand opposing the policies of the Trump administration that target international students or intellectual freedom and exchange in any way;
  • Supporting international students by opening more places, and funding extra scholarships, for students from countries barred by Trump.

See and sign this petition: http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/cshow-the-world-that-middle-eastern-and-latin-american-students-are-welcome-here

As part of its efforts to advocate for migrants’ and refugees’ rights in Spain, the Federación Estatal de Enseñanza de Comisiones Obreras (FECCOO) is carrying out a series of school-based capacity building projects, in collaboration with three education institutions in Catalonia, the Basque and the Valencian Communities. The different activities aim to sensitize and empower local communities, through teachers, students and parents’ associations, in order to promote a rights-based approach and a truly welcoming attitude towards displaced adult and children.

In Mislata (Valencia), the union collaborates with IES La Morería in a "photocall" initiative in which adolescents are given the opportunity to reflect on what it might be like to be a refugee, by putting on a life jacket and trying to express what they would feel if they had to flee their homes and their countries, risking their lives and leaving everything behind, including school experiences that can hardly be recovered. Through this activity, students get information, reflect and debate on the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. The entire school community of the IES La Morería is participating and the project team is planning similar activities outside the school, to multiply its impact on the broader local community.

Aware of the transformative power of education, with this kind of initiatives, FECCOO intends to support local teachers to mobilise their schools, communities and municipalities in favor of all refugees, forcibly displaced persons, stateless persons, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.