An influx of Syrian refugees  is a boon for Lebanese schools that, once short of students, can now remain open.
In August 2010, then Minister of Education Hassan Mneimneh merged 78 of Lebanon’s public schools  as a result of low levels of student enrollment. Some grades had no more than 20 students with an average of three teachers per student. The new arrangement combined multiple grade levels – first through fourth – into one class.
For the current 2013 school year, the situation has changed. The schools that once struggled to fill their classrooms are now replete with new students. In the Bekaa, as in other regions, hundreds of displaced Syrian students have enrolled in Lebanese public schools, giving life to institutions thought dead.
One elementary school on the verge of closing in the western Bekaa was saved by an additional 45 Syrian students. Thanks to the new enrollees, the student population had exceeded 100 and could remain open.
One teacher at a middle school in Baalbeck explained that the schools’ revivals “had a positive impact because it prevented the merging of classes from different grade levels.”
Abdullah Nassereddine, the director of the cultural center in Hermel, argued that registering Syrian students in Lebanese public schools resuscitated more than ten faltering schools in Hermel, removing the specter of closures.
In Hermel, this is the time of year when the area’s public schools request funding from the Ministry of Education to purchase all the basics, like stationery and heating fuel. Yet this year, there are other sources of funding.
“Most of the school principals used to go to the municipalities to procure their needs. Whereas today they do not have to do this because of the assistance of international associations,” Nassereddine said.
Hermel Deputy Mayor Issam Bleibel conducted a census of the displaced Syrian students out of the 450 registered students. He said that one Hermel school had canceled two grade levels the previous school year whereas this year there are 150 students.
Despite the positive outcome of registering displaced Syrian students  in Lebanon’s schools, Nassereddine didn’t hide the fact that the influx of Syrian students has also exacerbated existing educational problems.
By Rameh Hamieh
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