Peace education in Lebanon

In Lebanon, young people face high levels of violence within education and schools, which mirror social issues seen outside of education.

Data from national perception surveys showed tensions between Lebanese and Syrian refugee communities. Within the education sector itself, violence and harassment has increased over recent years, alongside drop-out rates and a slight increase in child labour among Syrian refugees.

The presence of tensions and violence in schools and learning centres is influenced by the policies, staff qualifications, engagement with caregivers and demographics and living conditions of the students. For children, violence is prevalent in their daily lives, as demonstrated by Alert and partners’ 2021 research on violence against children. The Centre for Lebanese Studies research established that students in both public schools and non-formal education (NFE) centres report verbal violence by teachers and in some instances physical violence applied as a form of discipline. In NFE centres, 3 in 4 children aged 7-12 witnessed violence around them in the 12 months prior to the research and 93% of these children see violence on the streets and in settlements.

Although violence is present, NFE centres are far more likely to have a child protection (CP) policy and programme than schools. NFE teachers were however often uncertain of their right to intervene in cases of bullying, opting for referring cases to their child protection colleagues, although teachers are usually among the most trusted adults in a child’s life and therefore best placed to support students in cases of bullying. Alert’s own assessment shows some school teachers were not aware of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education child protection policy, and along with principals, were not fully aware of risks of gender-based violence alongside early marriage.

In this context, the need to work on social cohesion in and though education in Lebanon is very pronounced. Through our work, we engage with education and child protection actors to support them in creating and implementing programmes that address social tensions and reduce violence in education. To succeed in preventing violence in and around school, Alert uses a holistic approach in collaborating on education programming in a cross-sectoral approach, through partnerships with education sector actors.

Our recommendations:

Education projects that are designed to support social cohesion must use participatory and community-based approaches in order to build a sense of belonging to the school and the school community and to prevent violence.

Existing tools on the prevention of violence against children (PVAC) and on skills for conflict resolution developed through the Safe to Learn and HOPES projects are a valuable entry point for engaging current and new partners in programming targeting education institutions.