On 30 January 2020, WHO declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. The outbreak has rapidly evolved, affecting national education systems and the delivery of Education programmes worldwide, including Lebanon. On March 2, in an effort to contain the outbreak, a decision was issued by the Government of Lebanon (GoL) to close all schools and educational institutions in the country. In line with this decision, the Education Sector recommended to all Non-Formal Education (NFE) service providers to close their centers as well to ensure the health and safety of learners.
Consequently, over 1.2 million school-aged children have been affected by school closure in Lebanon, including public, private, semi-private, and UNRWA schools. In addition to that, nearly 30,000 children and young people in NFE have had their education disrupted.
Given school closures, MEHE launched a distant learning plan for all public and private schools with general guidance on three pathways:
Media: relying mainly on television and the use of national TV for classes and awareness, with other media outlets used for awareness and psychosocial support for parents/ caregivers and learners. As a start, the focus under this pathway is on learners who have official exams, with the intention to expand to other grades;
Online platforms: one official application launched with Microsoft for public schools – Microsoft Teams, while some private schools are using their own platforms. In addition, other online platforms have been put in place by school principals in primary and secondary schools (like WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.) to enable access of children (including refugee children) to learning material;
Non-ICT methods: focusing mainly on paper-based materials.
Moreover, MEHE issued instructions for teachers to guide their work during the teleworking period and that revolved around three areas: preparing and disseminating lessons, following up with learners on homework, and grading and reporting back. MEHE also provided feedback forms for teachers, education professionals and others to provide their input on the pathways.
MEHE’s response plan for COVID-19 based on distance learning is still evolving with the development of the COVID-19 situation in the country. The plan needs to address the many challenges posed by distance learning modalities, including electricity cuts in many areas across Lebanon, and the lack of a reliable internet network or access to technology to facilitate e-learning, which have been validated by the Rapid Learning Readiness Assessment (refer to Section 5). In addition to that, parents/ caregivers are now playing the teachers’ role, often with more than one child to support, which adds pressures to households also affected by the economic crisis. Furthermore, movement restrictions imposed by the government to contain the spread of the disease pose an added challenge to schools using non-ICT modalities. These challenges particularly affect disadvantaged populations, including refugees and vulnerable Lebanese, who have less regular access to these facilities and tools.