Najwa Bou Chakra used to worry about her school’s reputation. There were so many problems: the roof leaked, the classrooms were draughty, and in winter they were so cold that students had to be told to stay at home. Then there was the kindergarten building, a ramshackle structure crudely partitioned into separate rooms. ‘Parents coming to register their kids would see the state of the buildings and get put off,’ recalls Chakra, head of this state school in Amatour, a small town south of Beirut, in Lebanon. But with running costs eating up the entire budget, there was little anyone could do to get to grips with all the difficulties at the school, never mind investing in new forms of learning.
This is by no means a unique situation for state schools in Lebanon. Parents who can afford it send their children to private schools. Because of the serious economic crisis in Lebanon, though, fewer and fewer families are in a position to do so. Besides, in recent years the country has taken in around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including many families. The state school system, already overstretched, has thus been put under ever-increasing pressure.