LEBANON

OVERVIEW

Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita, with an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees and around 20,000 refugees of other origins, in addition to 470,000 Palestine refugees and nearly 29,000 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon face significant discrimination and challenges, restricting access to work, healthcare and education.

58%
Syrian children not in school
3%
Syrian refugees aged 15 – 18 who complete secondary studies

Palestinian refugees also face exclusion from key facets of social, political and economic life due to legal restrictions that limit their rights and their access to state-provided services such as health and education.

Alongside the refugee crisis, conditions for Lebanese nationals have been dramatically declining. In addition to the ongoing financial and political crisis, a massive explosion destroyed Beirut’s port and severely damaged nearby residential and commercial areas in August 2020.

TRIPOLI

Located in the northern governorate, Tripoli is the second largest city in Lebanon. Just 30 km from the Syrian border, the city’s population grew 17% after the initial influx of Syrian refugees in 2011. GEM students in Tripoli are a mix of Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese nationalities. 

GEM has partnered with the Lebanese Association for Scientific Research (LASeR) in Tripoli since 2018. LASeR has promoted study, research and employment opportunities for students in Lebanon who are not able to afford university since 2008. It offers a wide range of opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Most GEM students studying at LASeR live in the city or surrounding urban neighbourhoods, although some have to travel more significant distances via bus to access the learning centre. 

KEY CHALLENGES

The GEM and LASeR partnership aims to address the challenges faced by refugee students. In Tripoli, these include:

Political instability

Financial crisis

Unemployment

English language levels

Gender inequality (few male students)

Access to housing

Access to healthcare

Legal Status precarity (risk of arrest, deportation)

BY THE NUMBERS

Average 4-year graduation rate for GEM students

Average 4-year graduation rate for US public universities

Average 4-year graduation rate for US private universities

Average global MOOC completion rate

0
30

2020 total students enrolled

0
73
/27

Female to male gender ratio

0
23

Average age

0
1

Language spoken
(other than English)

48%
With children
28%
Working while studying
76%
1st generation student
$
0
5,682

GEM’s average cost per student per year

$
0
22,847

Lebanon’s average cost per student per year

$
0
9,678

US public in-state average cost per student per year

$
0
21,184

US public out-of-state average cost per student per year

$
0
35,087

US private average cost per student per year

BEKAA VALLEY

The Bekaa Valley hosts approximately 38% of the Syrian refugees in the country. Nearly half of these families live in temporary structures and don’t have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services and infrastructure. In 2018, GEM partnered with the Multi Aid Programs (MAPs) – a Syrian-led, non-governmental organization registered in Lebanon that provides health, relief, education and continuing education to Syrian refugees as well as vulnerable Lebanese and Palestinian people.

Most GEM students are juggling families, work and other responsibilities. The flexibility of the competency-based degree makes it easier for them to access higher education. Many graduates choose to focus on digital work and look for employment with international companies that can benefit from their high levels of proficiency in English and technology.

KEY CHALLENGES

The GEM and MAPs partnership aims to address the challenges faced by refugee students. In the Bekaa Valley, these include:

Political instability

Financial crisis

Unemployment

English language levels

Gender inequality (few male students)

Access to housing

Access to healthcare

Legal Status precarity (risk of arrest, deportation)

BY THE NUMBERS

Average 4-year graduation rate for GEM students

Average 4-year graduation rate for US public universities

Average 4-year graduation rate for US private universities

Average global MOOC completion rate

0
35

2020 total students enrolled

0
49
/51

Female to male gender ratio

0
26

Average age

0
2

Languages spoken
(other than English)

40%
With children
35%
Working while studying
75%
1st generation student

STUDENT BLOG

Corona is not the only danger

Adnan, GEM Student at MAPs in Lebanon

Have you ever heard of the Coronavirus? I bet that the answer is yes. The lockdown… stay safe, stay home… the vaccine and when it will be ready… This interest in the Coronavirus, this hype that accompanies it, and this continuous race to find a vaccine for the virus made me think that there were no problems left in the world, nothing so important that the media care about, or that people join hands for, as they did with Corona.

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    I’d like to focus on the presence of pests that are far more dangerous than the Coronavirus, pests that have taken the lives of millions of people, not just thousands, and if these pests had received the attention they deserve, and if the world’s governments had provided them with some of the resources they provide to confront the Coronavirus, they would have become stories of the past and many people would have been saved.

    Moreover, Coronavirus media sensation masked the main problems that plague people’s lives in many countries, making matters worse. For instance, in Lebanon, the pandemic has come to complete the miserable lives of Lebanese and Syrian refugees who have been facing more than one national disaster since the beginning of the year. This includes government corruption, internal crises, and bankruptcy of banks that led to the exhaustion of the economy and the onset of a rapid economic collapse. Without procrastination or excessive words, I will review some of these tribulations, for it is impossible for me to mention them all.

    War and conflict

    Syria is entering its tenth year under mass devastation of war that has caused millions to flee to a foreign country to escape the danger and persecution of war, and all this is under close watch of the whole world. It has been ten years of murder and the shedding of innocent blood. The images and stories that come from Syria make us question our humanity, and make us doubt that we are human in the first place. In spite of this, the media focuses on the Coronavirus pandemic, the number of people infected, the number of deaths and the number of recoveries, and it ignores the pain of people suffering from the ongoing war. It appears that it is more important to know the number of people infected than to save the lives of people dying daily from war.

    Not far away, in Yemen, such a crisis exists. UNICEF has reported that at least one Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes due to malnutrition and disease, warning that 2.2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition and need treatment. All because of the war that started years ago and continues to take lives every day, leaving the surviving among them in a state of desperation.

    The UN warns that the death toll of the pandemic in Yemen could surpass that of five years of devastating war. For the people of Yemen, it is the least of their concerns, given the diseases, hunger and death that surround them on all sides.

    These are just some of the frightening and shocking examples of the world’s wars and conflicts that exist at this very moment. I leave you to answer this question: which threat is the most harmful to its victims? The virus or the war? And remember, dear reader, that the Coronavirus does not infect those who are committed to prevention, as opposed to wars in which most of the victims are innocent.

    Economic Crisis and Poverty

    Many countries in the world are suffering from economic crises that have made their people live the worst days of their lives, unable to secure their children’s livelihoods and to bring them to school. Every new sunrise is marked by a new difficult day.

    The political and economic crisis in Lebanon has rocked the country since the beginning of the year, leading to the collapse of the value of the currency. Most of the people have become unable to buy their basic daily food and medicine in a disaster that has been the worst since the Civil War.

    Then the pandemic began and eliminated any hope that these people could improve their conditions. Preventive measures to deal with the pandemic were the last nail in the coffin of the national economy, as companies, restaurants and shops had to close their doors and thousands of workers were laid off.

    The statistics related to poverty in Lebanon according to a report from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is frightening. Pictures of empty refrigerators in homes spread across social media, with Lebanon’s pound dramatically losing its purchasing power.

    We’ve not gotten to the worst part yet; Syrian refugees in Lebanon are facing greater pressures, because their salaries are greatly reduced or completely absent, and the rise in house rents is their biggest concern. I had a conversation with someone who used to work as a teacher, but the school has been closed for six months. He has two kids, and he doesn’t have food or money to pay his rent. When talking to me, he didn’t know what to do and did not know what tomorrow would bring.

    Crime
    Where there is poverty there is often crime. Lebanon is an example, where some people resort to violating laws and committing crimes such as theft, robbery and even murder to live. Crime has increased in Lebanon as a result of a decline in the standard of living and an acceleration in the collapse of the economic system. Under the name of the crime of hunger, stories quickly spread to news agencies, predicting a dark future.

    Moreover, events are accelerating in this devastated country, where a huge explosion occurred in the port of Beirut, destroying most parts of the city and leaving 300,000 people without a home. Investigations indicated that the blast was caused by the negligent storage of dangerous chemicals at the port. The streets were filled with people angry at the corruption of government officials and the negligence that had taken place, which led to this explosion, which left more than 150 people dead and 4,000 wounded.

    I’d like to apprise you about the suffering of Syrian refugees in Lebanon through my personal story. With all the problems mentioned, Syrian refugees remain under pressure and face greater challenges as a result of the restrictions imposed on them to work freely. Syrian refugees have become subject to extortion by employers. The Syrian worker faces two options, either working long hours on a low salary or not working at all. I’ll share my personal experience with an employer. After a layoff due to the pandemic and a general lockdown for two months, I faced two options: working ten hours a day for two dollars only, or not having a job.

    I chose to write these words because what is happening is a real disaster not only for the people of Lebanon, but also for the millions of Syrian refugees who will find themselves homeless if the current situation continues. I don’t think these people care about the pandemic because they face greater threats every day.

    Ultimately, Lebanon’s people must work hand-in-hand to preserve their country. They need to move away from sabotage, support the Lebanese pound, encourage dependence on local industries, and boycott expensive goods to curb hyperinflation, but this does not mean that we’ll be careless and that we will not take the necessary precautions. On the contrary, extra care and caution must be taken and all preventive measures announced by the medical authorities must be taken. What I would like to focus on is that there are tribulations that are far more dangerous than Coronavirus that need attention from all of us.

How COVID-19 impacted our studies

Hiba, GEM Student at MAPs in Lebanon

How does COVID-19 impact academic studies? What does it change? Unfortunately, most of the things that we used to do have changed since COVID-19. Our lives have become harder than before. Now, we’re facing the effect of this virus on our academic studies.

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    I faced many difficulties and negative impacts after COVID-19. One of them is that I can’t work on my projects very well. I became slower at submitting my projects. I feel bored because I used to study with my friends in the same place. We used to help each other when we were feeling pressure or stress from our studies by joking or eating something. Then we’d go back with high energy to our projects. But now, we can’t meet each other because of the virus. Sometimes my willpower becomes low, and I don’t want to study or do anything. Additionally, my eyes feel tired because everything transitioned to being online, such as attending workshops, courses and working on projects.

    Another thing that I faced is that the internet sometimes doesn’t work, which prevents me from studying. Even today, when I was working on my projects and I was really focusing, suddenly the internet stopped working. Honestly, I feel annoyed because I was in the mood to study and I planned to finish the project that I was working on, but because of the internet, I couldn’t achieve my goal.

    Not only is there an internet problem, but there’s also an electricity problem in Lebanon. We face days where the electricity doesn’t work. I couldn’t study very well, because the electricity was on only for two hours per day. Before COVID-19, we were going to the institution where the internet and the electricity were working well. My supervisor makes everything suitable for studying at the institution.

    Because I’m working from home and cannot meet people, I feel that I’m becoming unsociable. Before COVID-19, I was finding it difficult to be active and meet new people. I felt shy if someone I didn’t know spoke to me. Now, because I don’t meet people, I think I’m worse than before when interacting with people. In the future, I feel that I’ll not be sociable with people and will avoid meeting new people which is a bad thing.

    How I’m addressing these challenges

    The first challenge: I became slow in submitting my projects, because I feel bored, and I used to study with my friends in the same place. I’m addressing this challenge by downloading my favorite books to read, and I started to watch movies with my sister in the evening, maybe once every week. Additionally, I started to study with my friend online by using Zoom, where she’s working on her project and I on mine. I found this very useful to encourage each other to study and not waste time. About the tired feeling in my eyes because of working on my laptop for a long time, I followed the optometrist’s advice to take a break for five minutes every 20 minutes when I’m working on the laptop. I should look at the sky or move my eyes around the place where I sit.

    The second challenge: Internet problems. I accepted this problem. How? When the internet doesn’t work, I don’t become annoyed. I trained myself to adapt to this problem as if I received feedback on my project. I converted this problem to become like a break. While there is no internet, I do another thing, like I sit with my parents, read a book, play chess with my brother or maybe sleep.

    The third challenge: the electricity problem. I addressed this challenge when I started to free up my time only to work on the project when there is electricity. Additionally, I charge my laptop to be able to work on it without electricity and I download what I need on my laptop to work on my project in advance.

    The fourth challenge: I feel that I became unsociable because I can’t meet people because of COVID-19. For me, this is the most difficult challenge because I couldn’t do a lot to overcome it. Every day, I speak with my friends on WhatsApp, and I’m training myself to be more active when I have a meeting or workshop on Zoom, such as participating with the team and speaking with new students who are from Africa or another place. I haven’t found another way to pass this challenge, and I know that when we meet new people, our self-confidence becomes better. I want to have better self-confidence.

    My hopes and plans for the future

    I hope to help other students to pass the challenges that they are facing during COVID-19, because we’re facing the same challenges. We shouldn’t give up, and we should continue, because life doesn’t stop. We’re building our future, and no one can do that better than us. Life always has bad parts but we can make our own happiness even when the world is bad.

    My plans for the future: I want to work more on my project to graduate in a short time, and I want to get a job in a hospital because it’s my dream. I know that, because of COVID-19, it’s difficult to find a job, but I won’t give up and will search to find it.

    To sum up, COVID-19 has changed the way I study. My life has changed. I’m also not the only one who is affected by COVID-19. Students across the whole world were affected by the virus. Many schools couldn’t do anything for their students, interrupting the studies of those students. Others are facing the difficulties of studying remotely because of the expenses of the internet. Regrettably, we should get used to the new situation to be able to continue our lives. My words may not change anything, nor help those students who aren’t able to continue their studies – and I know that our life won’t go back to how it was before – but I hope to become better and I hope that I can help every student that is facing what I faced because of COVID-19.

NAHR EL-BARED REFUGEE CAMP AND SAIDA

GEM has partnered with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) since 2020. UNRWA is a UN agency that has supported the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees since 1949. In Lebanon alone, they serve Palestinian refugees across 12 camps and urban locations.

GEM students through UNRWA study in one of two learning centres – a UNRWA Innovation Lab located at the Siblin Training Centre in Saida in southern Lebanon and a second Innovation Lab located in Nahr El-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. These students are highly educated and driven students looking for higher level qualifications to excel in their careers, to further their studies at master’s and PhD levels and to pursue entrepreneurship opportunities.

KEY CHALLENGES

The GEM and UNRWA partnership aims to address the challenges faced by refugee students. In the Nahr El-Bared refugee camp and Saida, these include:

Political instability

Financial crisis

Unemployment

Gender inequality (few male students)

Access to housing

Access to healthcare

Discrimination

BY THE NUMBERS

Average 4-year graduation rate for GEM students

Average 4-year graduation rate for US public universities

Average 4-year graduation rate for US private universities

Average global MOOC completion rate

0
11

2020 total students enrolled

0
100
/0

Female to male gender ratio

0
23

Average age

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