Ambassador Elizabeth Richard and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Dr. Anne Patterson today delivered 100 school buses provided by USAID to public schools in 24 districts nationwide in the presence of Minister of Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamade. Starting academic year 2018-2019, this $4.6 million donation will provide access to school for nearly 5,000 vulnerable Lebanese and refugee students enrolled in both the first and second shifts of public schools throughout Lebanon.
To support the operation of the buses, USAID will provide a comprehensive operations and maintenance plans, training for school administrators on bus management, and training on safe driving, child protection, and bus operation and maintenance. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education will operate and maintain the buses and ensure their long-term sustainability.
The buses are part of the $46.2 million Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI) program funded by USAID since 2014. QITABI works with young learners to improve their Arabic reading skills, increases access to education for deserving students and helps the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Center for Educational Research and Development sustain reading and access reforms.
Today’s initiative is part of the U.S. Government’s investment, through USAID, of more than $286 million to improve access to and the quality of education in Lebanon. Initiatives have included improving the quality of education in the public school system, training teachers and principals, equipping public schools with science laboratories and computers, and providing merit-based scholarships to deserving public school students to access top U.S.-accredited universities.
Following is Ambassador Richard’s statement:
Good morning everyone, Minister Hamade, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen.
We are here to mark another very important step in the U.S. Government’s strong support for education in Lebanon – and especially our support for public schools.
The 100 buses some of which are parked behind me will enable over 5000 young students in 24 districts across the country to get the education they deserve.
I don’t have to tell anyone here about the importance of education. If I had to pick one factor in a young person’s life that would determine whether his or her future would be bright and full of possibility, or whether it would be a lifetime of struggle, I would choose education.
For that reason, the U.S. government has committed a long time ago to invest heavily in education in Lebanon – nearly $300 million in the last ten years.
We work with the public schools, from the earliest grades, and with private universities. We have trained public school teachers, we’ve renovated schools, we’ve provided equipment, we’ve helped develop a national education strategy, we’ve provided thousands of young people a chance to study English in the United States, and we’ve offered full four year scholarships for kids whose families cannot afford a private university education.
Today, I want to highlight one program that will be enhanced by the delivery of these buses you see here. It’s called QITABI, and it is a nearly $50 million investment, increasing young children’s ability to read in Arabic.
We are now doing this program in half of Lebanon’s public schools across the country – including in some of its most rural areas. It’s been a big success!
The Ministry of Education has developed benchmarks based on extensive data and experience to systematically measure and improve reading outcomes. The results for this program have been remarkable: over 70% of students have improved at least one reading level.
But while we are improving programs that teach children in public schools good Arabic language skills, there are still many other barriers and challenges, including simply getting kids to school – especially in the remote areas.
This is why we worked with the Ministry of Education for over a year to design the school bus program. It will provide safe, reliable, and modern transportation system to get Lebanese children to school.
And I cannot think of a more important mission for us to be supporting.
We have a long and strong relationship with the Ministry of Education, whose unwavering commitment to the future of Lebanese children is impressive.
I’d like to say a special word today about Minister Hamade, whose personal commitment to educating every single young person in this country has been an inspiration to all of us. He has worked tirelessly with the United States and with our other international community partners who are also investing in education to dramatically improve access to education for all.
I don’t know another person who has dedicated more of his heart and soul to the young people of this country, and I think every parent owes him a debt of gratitude, as we do.
Thank you very much Mr. Minister and all your colleagues for your partnership and thanks everyone for being with us today.