Providing hope, education is only way to fight extremism: Lebanese Education Minister Bou Saab 

The  Editor-in-chief of The Oslo Times, Hatef Mokhtar with the Lebanese Minister of Education Bou Saab

July 28, Oslo: Lebanon is home to almost 366,000 refugee school-aged children, who are mainly from Syria. Despite various difficulties, the Ministry of Education in Lebanon aims at enrolling 200,000 refugee children into public schools, and provide another 100,000 with non-formal education.

Despite these efforts and though all public school tuition fees for refugees are covered by the Ministry of Education and UN

agencies,  many Syrian parents are forced to send their children to work, assisting their parents make ends meet.

In fact UN reports reveal that in districts closer to the Syrian border, this problem can also lead to children, especially boys, on returning to Syria to join armed groups.

However, according to the Ministry, 10,000 Syrian children aged 9 to 17 have started attending a new Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) introduced by MEHE this week.

In an effort to find out about the assimilation of young refugee children into the school system and steps taken by the Lebanese government to eradicate extremist tendencies present in the refugee community, The Oslo Times Editor-in-chief, Hatef Mokhtar spoke to the Lebanese Minister of Education Bou Saab on these issues.

The ‘Two Q’s below give us a brief look into the efforts Lebanon is making on improving the education sector in the country:

How much are you satisfied with this conference and what is the situation of refugee children and their access to education in Lebanon?

Yes. Certainly the Norwegian government has played a very positive role proactively gathering World leaders around this subject. They have made some substance making some strong commitments. And they also decided to double what they were paying, for helping children in crisis of access to education. More than any country around the World, we ( in Lebanon) receive a lot of children who are Syrian Refugees who currently make up more than 40 percent of our population. We do benefit from what Norway has done and the role they have played in supporting this crisis. Whatever was announced at this conference will make a difference; we now need other countries in the World to follow the footsteps of Norway. This is all for the benefit of children who need to be put in schools.

Now switching to violent extremism prevalent in refugee communities as claimed by a few human rights activists, how will such elements be controlled and what could be the consequences of such groups?

One of the ways to fight extremism and terrorism is by providing hope and education to young generation. Like I said earlier, we do have cases that’s been reported by UNICEF. Even today reports of terrorists recruiting young children and forcing them to become terrorists have been released. They are forcefully involved in curriculum that fosters extremist values in a few schools that are controlled by such groups. The only way to fight this situation, against groups like ISIS who call themselves Islamic State but are actually not following real Islam, is by giving them hope. We give them education and healthcare, this is the only way to deal with it.

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