Education is key for social stability, shows new Lebanon research

International Alert organised a closed workshop in Beirut last week to discuss initial findings of our Change in exile research project on the role of education in promoting social stability in Lebanon.

The project, which we are conducting with Roskilde University in Denmark, examines how education can create social stability and cohesion among Syrian refugees and their host communities in both Lebanon and Denmark. In Lebanon, the research was informed by interviews with UN agencies, NGOs and focus group discussions with Lebanese and Syrian youth, their parents and teachers in the suburbs of Beirut and Tripoli in Northern Lebanon.

‘Change in exile’ presents opportunities and recommendations for how civil society, municipalities and schools can all play a role in improving social stability. It is funded by the Fund for Academic Cooperation and Exchange (FACE).

“Education is the largest and most funded sector and school is the place where early interactions take place. It therefore has a great potential to shape children’s perceptions of the other and contribute to the overall social stability of Lebanon”, said our Lebanon Country Manager Chiara Butti.

Chiara Butti from International Alert (left) gave opening remarks before Lana Khattab (right) presented the research findings

The workshop brought together academics and civil society representatives, including those from UN agencies, international and national organisations. Lead Researcher Lana Khattab presented the initial research findings, which reveal that challenges remain despite an unprecedented and welcomed move by the Lebanese government to open public schools to Syrian refugee children.

Negative perceptions and a lack of opportunities for children to interact positively between one another are two key problems that need addressing. The research also shows that non-formal education programmes with the right criteria, including community-based initiatives with longer-term funding, have greater impact in improving social cohesion among and between children and their families.

These findings are very timely, as the education sector is now moving from providing emergency education towards shorter to medium-term solutions for the displaced Syrians in Lebanon, which has an impact on Syrian-Lebanese relations.

Michelle Pace, the Project Lead from Roskilde University, presented some of the findings from Denmark, where she focuses on unaccompanied Syrian refugee children.

“This project is solution-oriented rather than problem-solving, which is why it is a priority for us to develop policy recommendations to support social cohesion initiatives in countries hosting Syrian refugees, in our case Denmark and Lebanon.”

Those attending the workshop split into groups to brainstorm these recommendations. These will be reviewed and finalised for the last conferences in Beirut and Roskilde in March.

Workshop attendees discuss the research findings and brainstorm solutions

The workshop also provided a space for academics and practitioners from Lebanon and Denmark to discuss ways they can collaborate and share more knowledge on this topic.

For more information about ‘Change in exile’, including the final conferences, please email Lana Khattab.

You can also find out more about the project here.