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A Perfect Storm for students in Lebanon, the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the county’s ongoing crises

Written by: Elias Ziyadeh

From: Beirut, Lebanon

Edited by: Luana Mayer

Recently, Lebanon has been in the international headlines, usually for unpleasant reasons. Since October 2019, Lebanon has been engaged in protests against a sectarian system of government. These protests coincided with a decrease in the Lebanese Pound’s purchasing power, diminishing the savings of working-class citizens, inducing them to protest even more.

For students in Lebanon, this crisis meant that their education was uncertain. Schools were closed in October and November 2019, and intermittently until February 2020, because of closed roads and a precarious security situation. Lebanon had no virtual learning infrastructure, and couldn’t reliably build one, because the internet connections in Lebanon are notoriously unreliable and slow. In addition, electricity in Lebanon is not provided by the government 24 hours a day, which means most people in Lebanon have to rely on private sector generators or live in darkness during the coverage gap. This meant for many students, their schooling was effectively put on hold during school closures. This meant when the Covid-19 crisis in Lebanon, students were already under a lot of pressure.

When Covid-19 first arrived in Lebanon in February 2020, a more permanent school closure occurred, and schools and teachers had to find ways to teach their students. Many schools did not learn from the previous closure and had not planned for this scenario, and so ad hoc forms of teaching were born, such as lessons on Whatsapp groups and voice messages. Understandably, this education was not of the same quality as in-person teaching, and even students whose schools were implementing some sort of regular remote learning could not possibly learn as much as they were previously. Many students felt that they were lagging behind their curriculums. This feeling was exacerbated by education authorities like the International Baccalaureate and the Lebanese Ministry of Education’s unclear messages about the end-of-year exams, which caused many students to stress about holding exams during a pandemic before they ultimately canceled.

The explosion of August 4, 2020, had a devastating effect on Lebanon as a whole, including the education sector. The explosion had severely weakened Lebanon’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which means schools returned to the virtual setting rather than in person as was planned, albeit in a much more structured way. However, the explosion destroyed homes and infrastructure, and students living in the direct blast radius could not possibly continue their studies virtually. The blast and Covid-19 forced students to study from their homes once again, which many could not do.

Students in Lebanon came to accept the many obstacles on the path to receiving a complete education in the Covid era, even as the crises around them have worsened. Now, as Lebanon grapples with a shortage of diesel fuel for private generators, studying at home has become an impossibility for many, students are being forced back into the physical classroom for the 2021-22 school year, risking another Covid spike.

Covid-19 and virtual learning have given Lebanese students a direct look into the many crises their county is engulfed in. Every aspect of their lives has come under attack in recent months, and their lives have been reduced to a monotony. Even though Lebanese students are some of the most resilient students in the world, how much more misery can they tolerate?

A Perfect Storm: Feature Story
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