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Leading local solutions for education in Lebanon, Nayla Fahed speaks at the Global Refugee Forum

Carine Umuhumuza

Courtesy of Carine Umuhumuza for Malala Fund

Carine Umuhumuza

Carine manages communications for the Gulmakai Network and works with Champions to build their media skills and elevate their profiles.

Malala Fund Education Champion Nayla Fahed arrived in Geneva for the Global Refugee Forum in the midst of the economic crisis in Lebanon, her home country. She was hopeful though, even after months of demonstrations, road closures, limited access to cash and government shutdowns.

Nayla attributed her optimism to the young people leading the protests who are calling for social and economic reforms in Lebanon. She said these young leaders value education, open dialogue and creative ideas to address the problems facing the country. As co-founder of the NGO Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL), Nayla has been at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to Lebanon’s education challenges since 2012. With LAL, she works to help marginalised groups — like refugee girls — learn through technology.

Eager to discuss her efforts and engage with her peers who are also working to tackle the global refugee crisis, Nayla joined Malala Fund’s delegation at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019. There she spoke about why local actors, like her, are best placed to lead in the development of flexible and culturally responsive education solutions for refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees hosted the Forum to discuss how to implement the Global Compact on Refugees. The compact, which the U.N. General Assembly first agreed to in 2018, established a framework to improve international responses to refugee situations. It seeks to ease pressure on host countries and improve refugee’s self-reliance. It also commits to support refugees’ countries of origin so they can one day return home.

Right now, only seven refugee girls for every 10 boys are enrolled in secondary school. Ahead of the Forum, Malala Fund hosted a side event with Plan International, U.N. Women and The Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies to discuss what works best to get refugee girls into secondary school and learning. Nayla and other experts explained that local interventions need more funding from the international community. 

“In Lebanon, we currently have two million refugees [living] within a population that is just a little over five million,” said Nayla. She explained that Lebanon’s education system is overwhelmed by the population surge — and how support for local actors and solutions, like hers, can help bring change. 

Tabshoura in a Box is a pocket-sized server loaded with educational content that Nayla developed with LAL to help refugee students learn. It has a built-in power bank and does not need internet or electricity to run. This allows girls to study without interruptions from Lebanon’s daily 12-hour electricity cuts.

Nayla joined Malala Fund's Education Champion Network three years ago. In that time, she has used her grant to scale her work — impacting 3,000 students and 100 teachers. Tabshoura is currently used in schools, learning facilities and community centres across Lebanon.

“What makes Tabshoura unique is that our solution is light, scalable and low-cost. It is a model that can be easily adapted and replicated anywhere in the world,” said Nayla.

In addition to discussing ways to support refugee education, the Forum also resulted in host governments and donors committing $350 million to improve refugees' access to education. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) announced $250 million for education in emergencies. The Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the global fund for education in emergencies, received new funding, including a $17.8 million cash boost from Germany and a $5.5 million injection from the European Union.

The new financial commitments and pledges made at the Forum mark progress. They indicate the international community's intent to follow through on the objectives outlined in the Global Compact for Refugees. Yet, millions of girls are still out of school and only 2% of humanitarian aid goes toward education. Malala Fund and our Education Champions like Nayla will continue to advocate to ensure education in emergencies remains a global priority.

Learn about Nayla and our programmes by visiting malala.org/programmes.

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