By Van Meguerditchian
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
BEIRUT: Newly appointed Italian Ambassador Giuseppe Morabito said Tuesday leveling down illiteracy among Lebanese women would help limit poverty levels and promote literacy among the new generations.
“The Italian government’s campaign against illiteracy in Italy and Lebanon is built upon the principle of equality and on our belief that everyone has a right to education,” said Morabito.
The ambassador spoke during a conference to combat illiteracy funded by the government of Italy through the Italian Cooperation for Development in Lebanon. Titled “The National Conference ton Literacy in Lebanon: Challenges and Opportunities,” the meeting primarily centered on promoting gender equality in education in Lebanon.
“We still see irrelevant books being used in Lebanese schools in which women are portrayed as being less equal than men,” said Morabito, who also highlighted the Lebanese government’s responsibility to put an end to discrimination in school curriculums. The ambassador expressed Italy’s commitment to help Lebanon to achieve that aim.
Tuesday’s conference was held in collaboration with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Lebanon’s Social Affairs Ministry.
The conference which concludes Wednesday was also attended by Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh and UNESCO director Abdel-Moneim Osman and an array of figures from the education and civil society sectors.
Morabito said illiteracy still affected Lebanese men and women alike. He added that although Lebanon’s illiteracy rates were significantly inferior to those of other countries in the Middle East and North Africa; the issue of gender inequality in education was evident.
According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, there are now an estimated 796 million illiterate adults in the world, and about 64 percent of those are women.
Sayegh admitted the existence of gaps in the country’s educational policies. He cited poverty and instability as the main causes behind inequality and illiteracy in Lebanon.
“Factors such as poverty and instability have compelled individuals to leave schools at an early age and join the work force,” said Sayegh. The minister underlined the educational gap that existed between Lebanese parents and their children. He added that while parents received traditional education, their children have been exposed to revolutions in the field of education, causing a clash between the old and new generations.
Sayegh called on civil society groups to cooperate with individual, state and international partners in this challenge to help set national priorities. “Lebanon’s sovereignty and the state’s clout should protect the country’s distinctiveness in the region,” he added.
Sayegh reiterated that there is a general consensus among all Lebanese parties on strengthening the role of Lebanese individuals and their dignity.
“Let us give a chance for individual initiatives by maintaining political stability in Lebanon,” the minister added.
Sayegh commended the support offered by Italy’s government to Lebanon in framing a methodology to counter several of the challenges facing the Lebanese society. “Partnership between Lebanon and Italy is a strategic one.”
Italy also participates in maintaining peace in south Lebanon through its contingent serving as part of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Italy is in charge of sector west of UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon, under the command of General Guiseppe Nicola Tota.