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GHATA Project in the Beqaa Offers Refugee Children Quality Education

  • Date: May-01-2017

President Fadlo Khuri and Provost Mohamed Harajli visited the GHATA project in the Beqaa region on Friday, April 29. The President and Provost were accompanied by founder and director of the Kayany Foundation Nora Sharabati Joumblatt and director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) Rabih Shibli.

Eight Ghata schools welcoming more than 4,500 refugees have been established in the Beqaa. The schools were established by AUB and Kayany Foundation, in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs Jesuit Refugee Service, Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), the Malala Fund, Save the Children, Boghossian Foundation, Rotary Germany, and L’ecole de L’espoir, among others.

The GHATA project was first developed to address the urgent need for a safe and temporary shelter for Syrian refugees living in Informal Tented Settlements (ITSs) throughout Lebanon. GHATA structures are designed by Rabih Shibli as cost-effective units that are built from locally available materials; simple to assemble, disassemble, and transport; and capable of withstanding difficult weather conditions. The units are also environmentally friendly, thus reducing negative impact on the natural environment.

In May 2014, and in response to the protracted Syrian crisis, CCECS partnered with Kayany Foundation and the Ministry of Social Affairs to implement the project “GHATA: Bringing Education to Informal Tented Settlements.” The initiative aims to provide schooling for refugee children by constructing portable classrooms within their tented settlements and training qualified teams from the targeted communities to lead the educational process.

Since the inception of GHATA, over 62 units have been installed in numerous ITSs to serve as community schools. CCECS has engaged AUB faculty and students with Non-Governmental Organization, Lebanese authorities, and funders to build the portable classrooms, as well as train educators and school staff, to provide high quality schooling for Syrian refugee children in informal tented settlements.

Following his visit to the classrooms, President Fadlo Khuri emphasized the importance of education and the role of AUB in supporting underprivileged communities.

“Education is the most powerful tool to shape a better future, and it is our duty, as AUB, the finest institution of higher learning in the Arab world, to extend a helping hand to those least fortunate, including these young, blameless, Syrian refugee children,” said President Khuri.

“We, and others who can, must ensure that as many children as possible have access to a meaningful education, in order to prepare them to serve and lead their future societies after this crisis draws to a close. These collaborations – led by Rabih Shibli and our Center for Civic Engagement – which have been ongoing for several years with Nora Joumblatt and the Kayany Foundation, are a fundamental part of our mission to provide young people with real hope and educational substance for a better tomorrow for all.”

“As you look at the cheerful faces and the enthusiasm for learning of these young children, aged 5 to 16, you cannot but salute the remarkable work that our partners are doing to educate the children of Syria,” said Provost Mohamed Harajli following his visit. “These schools represent an ‘oasis of hope’ in a desert of indifference by the international community towards one of the most agonizing refugee crises that the world has ever witnessed. AUB’s mission is well served.”

Six out of eight schools are now accredited by the Ministry of Education. Its students are prone to obtaining official diplomas upon finishing high school.

Volunteering opportunities for AUB students are available through CCECS. On a weekly basis, students from various disciplines head to the settlements and offer entertainment to the refugee children.

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