By Antoine Amrieh
Thu, Dec 02, 2010
Daily Star staff
TRIPOLI: After ministerial efforts failed to cut the number of school drop-outs, civil-society organizations have taken over the role of helping failing students stay in school.
In north Lebanon, in particular the city of Tripoli, the problem of illiteracy has continued in the past few years in light of harsher economic conditions, and authorities have done little to remedy the problem.
Non-governmental organizations have decided to take over the charge of guaranteeing the academic success of weaker students. A number of civil society-run schools have now emerged.
The most prominent of these schools is the institute created by the Sirat Organization for social services with the aim of offering academic help for children in need. Underprivileged and failing students are often taken out of school and forced to work at an early age by their families.
The head of the organization Hind Kabbara explained that the institute was born more than 15 years ago out of an urgent need.
“We noticed an enthusiasm on the part of the parents, especially after they saw their children improving at school,” she said, adding that the difficulties the institute encountered were mainly financial and not academic.
The institute currently hosts 150 students divided into classes of no more than 10. However, it has very limited capacity to accept additional pupils.
The rate of school drop outs could be as high as 45 per cent in some areas, according to a recent study by the Tripoli municipality’s social committee. The number of school drop-outs significantly increases in the northern coastal city’s impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
Economic woes and the desire of some children to gain financial independence were the two main reasons for pupils leaving their classes.
The director of the Gibran Khalil Gibran public school for girls Ms. Hawshar is currently in charge of running the institute. She said most of the students she received were unable to study at home because their parents were incapable of helping them with their homework.
“Many of them have been forced to leave school,” she added, expressing regret that the number of school drop-outs has increased.
Hawshar said it can be difficult to find teachers who have the necessary experience to deal with the children the school encounters.
“Students at the institute come from different backgrounds and regions, mainly from Tripoli, and they are from various religions and political affiliations,” she added, confirming the institute’s need for financial support.
Student Safa Abdallah studies at the institute and said her parents could not teach her at home. “I used to fail at school before I came here,” she said.
Maha al-Sheikh Taha, also a student, agreed with her friend and said the teachers at the institute explained their lessons slowly and more easily. “It’s a comfortable place to be,” she added.