Lebanon to rehash refugee aid plan at Brussels conference

Lebanon asks for $1 billion to help the Syrian refugees on its territory. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2019

Lebanon to rehash refugee aid plan at Brussels conference

  • Syrian refugees in Lebanon, even those with an official residence, are experiencing discrimination amid political divisions surrounding their return

BEIRUT: At a conference in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, Lebanon will present the same plan it presented two years ago to alleviate its refugee burden.
The plan aims to help 1.5 million Lebanese, 1.5 million Syrian refugees and more than 208,000 Palestinian refugees.
“After eight years of war, Syrian refugees have become increasingly exhausted, and 70 percent of them are in poverty,” Nasser Yassin, director of research at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, told Arab News.
“This conference comes at a time of political clashes in Lebanon between a party that wants a rapid return of the refugees, and a party that insists on respecting refugee rights and the right to a safe return.”
Lebanese authorities are concerned by “a trend among European donor countries of merging funds allocated to Lebanon for the refugee crisis and those pledged … to support Lebanon,” Yassin said.
Nadim Munla, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s adviser on refugees, said the country “can no longer bear the burden of the crisis. It’s no longer a humanitarian crisis. It’s now threatening Lebanon’s growth and stability.”
Hariri had previously said: “In view of the increasing talk about refugees’ return, it’s dangerous to consider that it actually happened or will happen very soon, and thus overlook the increasing needs of Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon.”
Joelle Bassoul, the representative in Lebanon of Save the Children, said the country “is asking for $1.2 billion to assist host communities, $1 billion to help Syrian refugees on its territory, in addition to assisting Palestinian refugees in light of the decline in UNRWA’s (the UN Relief and Works Agency) contributions.”
She added that “93 percent of Syrian refugees (in Lebanon) are living in cities, which means they’re paying expenses without receiving any help.”
She said: “A total of 1 million births (among Syrian refugees) were registered in host countries since the start of the crisis, including 178,000 in Lebanon.”
George Ghali, executive director of the ALEF human rights organization in Lebanon, said: “The resettlement program for Syrian refugees in Western countries lost some momentum in recent years … This clearly reflects the international community’s attempt to evade its responsibilities toward host countries.”
Syrian refugees in Lebanon, even those with an official residence, are experiencing discrimination amid political divisions surrounding their return.
This situation is mainly reflected through the closure of Syrian-owned shops, and arrests of Syrians for lacking an official residency or other documents.
Some Syrian refugees say they have been offered tourist visas to France, where — they have been told — they can request asylum, in exchange for them selling their land and property in Syria.
Some have accepted the offer, and have been transported in containers from the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.
“The Syrian regime’s allies and the international community must pressure it to facilitate the return process through a number of measures to reflect its good intentions,” said Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Richard Kouyoumjian.
He added that “90 percent of the refugees in Lebanon want to go back. We’d agreed on technical coordination with Syria to facilitate the journey of those wishing to return.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “The refugees need to be assured that they’ll have a safe, secure and decent return. They’ve voiced concerns about five main areas, including safety, housing, access to services, legal issues and job opportunities.”
He added: “The commission is working in Syria to remove obstacles hampering refugees’ return, through a number of measures such as reconstructing schools and providing basic humanitarian assistance to allow reintegration.”
Grandi said: “The return has to be progressive, and the Syrian government has a significant role in ensuring suitable conditions.” He added that “165,000 refugees have already returned to their country.”

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.