The “Back to School” programme of $2.28 million will help assure the continuity of the Christian presence in Lebanon and the coexistence between the different religions
Aid to the Church in Need has just launched its “Back to school” aid programme in Lebanon, which will benefit 30,000 students and more than 6,000 teachers in almost two hundred schools, making it possible to resume classes after the summer break.
Around 185,000 pupils, both Christian and Muslim, between the ages of 6 and 18 attend some 327 Catholic schools. Due to the terrible economic crisis that Lebanon is experiencing, many of the religious congregations or dioceses that run schools in the country are very concerned about their students’ return to the classrooms. One in ten children left school during the last academic year, either due to migration, or financial difficulties.
ACN is convinced that the continuity of the Christian presence in Lebanon depends on keeping schools open.
“Support for schools is a key response to the crisis afflicting Lebanese Christians”, Philipp Ozores, secretary general of ACN, explains.
“In this country, religious education takes place mainly in Catholic schools, rather than in parishes. If Catholic schools and teachers begin to disappear due to lack of financial means, the demographic balance will change rapidly.”
The country’s financial collapse has made it impossible for many parents to pay tuition fees. Semi-public schools are also experiencing a situation of great hardship because although they are entitled to government subsidies, over the past four years the Lebanese State has not covered the costs.
“Many schools are bankrupt, they can’t afford to pay teachers and struggle to find the means to sustain themselves. The great risk is that Catholic schools will be forced to close, which would also be a long-term disaster for coexistence between religions, since these institutions play a vital role in relations between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and are an example of coexistence for the entire Middle East”, Ozores explains.
Another big problem for many schools is the power and electricity supply, already notoriously dysfunctional and in short supply for decades, Lebanese schools rely on access from private generators during outages, which was already a huge cost before the financial crisis. This is one of the nightmares for the operation of schools.
Projects in the “Back to School” programme add up to a total of $2.28 million in aid and include:
- $818,760 – Stipends for teachers
- $692,920 – Aid for families with scholarities
- $240,000 – Aid for catechists’ teachers in public schools
- $211,358 – Aid for solar panels for Catholic schools
- $200,000 – Aid for materials for students at 89 assisted schools
- $119,900 – Miscellaneous for schools
The foundation, which has already increased its aid to this country since the drastic Beirut Port explosion in August 2020, continues to prioritise the survival and subsistence of Christian communities in Lebanon, the only Arab country where Christians play an active role in society and politics, and a place of refuge for persecuted Christians for centuries, including Armenians in the twentieth century, and Syrians and Iraqis over the last decade.
“By 2020 most of ACN’s funding to Lebanon was going to support Syrian refugees, but now it is Lebanese Christians who need our help,” Ozores explains.
Founded in 1947 as a Catholic relief organization for war refugees and recognised as a pontifical foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to serving Christians around the world wherever they are persecuted, discriminated against, or suffer material need, through prayer, information and charity.
With offices in 23 countries, ACN can support an average of 6,000 projects in nearly 150 countries each year, thanks to private donations, as the organization does not receive government aid.