The fusion of the Lebanese revolution, the Beirut port explosion, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to a complex barrier, the economic crisis, with far-reaching consequences on the educational systems (Corps 2023). This research paper explores the impact of economic crises on student enrollment rates and the teaching and learning process in private and public schools at Hasbaya District, a region nestled in Lebanon’s south-eastern. By shedding light on this localized context, we aim to address a critical gap in the literature, as no previous studies have explored this specific topic in Hasbaya District. To dive deeper and capture first-hand experiences, perceptions, and insights, we interviewed parents and teachers at Hasbaya District.
Education is widely acknowledged as one of the most critical factors that determine an individual’s success (Slade, S. & Griffith, D. 2013). It’s universally recognized as a fundamental human right that plays a crucial role in shaping the future of individuals and societies (Lee 2013). Unfortunately, the right to education has been significantly impacted by economic crises, posing substantial challenges to students and educational institutions (Bamigboye et al. 2016, 2895). Throughout history, the impact of economic crises on educational systems has been a topic of great interest worldwide, as nations grapple with the far-reaching consequences of economic turmoil, which worsen the pre-existing inequalities and hinder access to quality education (Bamigboye et al. 2016, 2895). In this context, the Lebanese educational system, particularly in the Hasbaya District, has encountered significant obstacles in recent years due to the financial crises that have profoundly affected the country. This research aims to investigate the impact of economic crises on the enrolment rates of Lebanese students in private and public schools and on the teaching and learning process in Hasbaya District, nestled in Lebanon’s south-eastern region. The significance of this research extends far beyond the borders of Lebanon, where it not only sheds light on the localized repercussions but also provides valuable insights for other nations facing similar circumstances. The findings from this study in the Hasbaya District can contribute to the existing literature and provide valuable insights to researchers, educators, citizens, and policymakers worldwide. It offers insights into the inequalities in education, the challenges faced by students and educators, and potential strategies for mitigating the impact of economic crises. Understanding these dynamics fosters cross-cultural awareness and empowers students to contribute to the development of equitable and resilient education systems globally. Thus, the experiences and lessons learned from Lebanon can be applied in other nations facing similar circumstances.
The study aims to address these research questions:
- How have economic crises affected the enrolment rates of Lebanese students in private and public schools in Hasbaya District?
- How have economic crises impacted the teaching and learning process in Lebanese schools in Hasbaya District?
In the face of economic crises, educational systems often bear the brunt of the impact, as witnessed in Lebanon’s Hasbaya District, leaving a trail of challenges that hinder the progress of students and the teaching-learning process in private and public schools. The profound consequences of the Lebanese Revolution 2019 (figures 1 and 2), the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Beirut port explosion (figures 3 and 4), the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the summer 2021 fuel crisis have collectively contributed to the creation of the central barrier which is Lebanon’s economic crisis (Corps 2023). Where, in October 2019, a widespread sense of crisis and frustration with the inaction of the political class on various pressing issues (ACRPS 2019). Citizens were dissatisfied with the government’s failure to address economic hardships, high unemployment rates, corruption, and inadequate public services like electricity, clean water, and reliable infrastructure (BBC 2019). A wider desire for structural change and the overthrow of the entrenched political class resulted from the decision to impose fees on WhatsApp (ACRPS 2019). This decision was the initial spark that sparked widespread protests and reinforced the public’s complaints and prompted hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens to take to the streets, advocating significant political reforms (Bisat et al. 2021). This upheaval was followed by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating explosion in downtown Beirut on August 4th, 2020, resulting in further destruction and disruption (UN 2023). The combination of these significant negative shocks resulted in a dramatic economic implosion, with GDP estimated to have contracted by 25% in 2020, and a projected additional decline of 10-15% in 2021 (Bisat et al. 2021). The ongoing nature of these economic challenges has created a protracted crisis, with implications extending into the year 2023 and dramatically affecting the educational system (UN 2023).
Lebanese Students and their Families:
On one side of the barrier are the Lebanese students and their families, who are grappling with the adverse effects of the economic crisis, where many families have been compelled to transfer their kids from private to public schools. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 39,189 students shifted from private to public schools during the current school year, representing a significant 15% increase compared to the previous year (Babin 2020). Similarly, data from the 2020-2021 academic year revealed that nearly 55,000 students made this transition (Rydan 2022). The decision to switch schools is driven by the financial challenges faced by families, including exorbitant tuition fees and related expenses, making private education unaffordable (Rydan 2022). Also, numerous children have experienced disruptions and difficulties in their schooling since October 2019, including during the revolution. Over 1.2 million children have been affected by these challenges, with education being particularly vulnerable (Elharake 2023). Disturbingly, over 700,000 children are at risk of never returning to school due to poverty, as many are forced to leave to work or get married (Elharake 2023). However, the situation in Hasbaya District presents a different scenario, where many families across Lebanon have been compelled to switch their children from private to public schools, Hasbaya has experienced an increase in the number of students enrolled in private schools due to interventions implemented by these institutions. Teacher Sara mentioned that their private school saw an increase in student enrollment due to the school’s rebates offered to parents who received their salaries in Lebanese Lira. The school also made cost-saving changes such as replacing expensive textbooks with booklets and providing necessary stationery to students. These measures made private education more accessible and attractive to families facing financial difficulties. Similarly, Dalal, another teacher participant, highlighted that their school responded to the collapse of the Lebanese Lira by providing scholarships to students and reducing the number of teaching days from five to four to alleviate transportation costs. As a result, the number of students in their school increased. Conversely, teacher Aya shared a different perspective, highlighting that some students were leaving public schools in Hasbaya. She attributed this trend to the frequent teacher strikes throughout the school year due to low salaries. The resulting decrease in the quality of education pushed parents to seek alternatives in private schools for their children’s educational needs. These first-hand accounts from the teachers Dalal, Sara, and Aya illustrate the dynamic nature of the educational landscape in Hasbaya District, where private schools have implemented various measures to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis and attract students. While the overall trend in Lebanon leans towards a shift from private to public schools, these localized interventions have reversed the trend in Hasbaya District, indicating the adaptability and resourcefulness of educational institutions in the face of challenging circumstances.
On the other side of the barrier are the educational institutions. The teaching and learning processes in the country’s schools have been deeply affected by the ongoing crises. The financial turmoil has resulted in layoffs and the payment of low salaries to teachers, often in Lebanese pounds, which have further exacerbated their financial challenges (Alarabiya News 2023). These unfavorable conditions, coupled with the rising costs of transportation and associated expenses, have forced many qualified teachers to seek employment opportunities outside the education sector, leading to a shortage of skilled educators (Alarabiya News 2023). Also, an assessment by the Italian NGO Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale (AVSI) found that 92% of sampled schools experienced an influx of students from private schools, leading to overcrowding and insufficient capacity (AbiNader, J & McLellan, J. 2021). This surge in student enrollment has strained the resources and infrastructure of educational institutions, making it challenging to provide quality education to all students. Additionally, teacher Ghassan highlighted the significant impact of the economic crises on teachers’ well-being, stating that many educators are experiencing high levels of stress, which has had a detrimental effect on their teaching careers and the quality of education they provide. Similarly, Manal, as a parent, noted that due to low salaries, many qualified teachers have left the schools and have been replaced by fresh graduates or university students accepting moderate salaries. This turnover of teachers, often occurring in the middle of the school year, has made it difficult for students to adapt to new teachers and has disrupted their learning progress. Mazen, as a parent, shared his observations regarding teachers leaving in the middle of the school year due to inadequate salaries, leading to further challenges for students. The sudden change of teachers in mid-year has made it difficult for children to adapt to new teaching styles and disrupted their overall educational experience. Besides, teachers Dalal and Sara highlighted the impact of resource constraints on the quality of education. Due to the high cost of heating, schools have resorted to merging different sections into one class. This has created difficulties for teachers in meeting the diverse needs of all students. Teacher Sara further explained that the large number of students in a single class, coupled with limited resources, has made it challenging for teachers to incorporate different teaching methods and practical skills into their lessons. These personal accounts shed light on the adverse effects of the economic crisis on the teaching and learning processes in Hasbaya District. The financial constraints, teacher shortages, disruptions in the middle of the school year, overcrowded classrooms, and limited resources have collectively contributed to the deterioration of the educational system.
Despite the challenges posed by the economic crisis, schools in Hasbaya District have displayed remarkable resourcefulness and adaptability to limit the barriers and minimize the impact on education. By implementing innovative measures, these institutions have demonstrated their commitment to providing accessible and quality education to students. For example, as Sara and Dalal mentioned many private schools in the district responded to the collapse of the Lebanese Lira by offering rebates and scholarships to parents and students, reducing teaching days to alleviate transportation costs, implementing cost-saving changes like replacing expensive textbooks with booklets and providing necessary stationery to students. These initiatives have made private education more accessible and attractive to families grappling with financial difficulties. Also, Sara added that schools are actively providing training sessions and workshops to teachers, equipping them with new teaching methodologies and techniques. This focus on teacher development aims to ensure that educators can effectively navigate the challenges of the economic crisis and deliver quality education to their students. Besides, schools in the district are making efforts to incorporate new subjects such as robotics and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) into their curriculum to develop students’ practical skills. Furthermore, Manal mentioned that private schools are offering flexible payment options to families facing financial difficulties. In addition to the associations that aim to cover the burden of school fees and provide academic support and training to the students for free such as the Community Association for Student Support (CASS) established in 2001 with the help of affluent families that are offering financial assistance and scholarships to alleviating the burden of school fees for children who are in need (CASS 2023) And “Teach A Child” association, a non-profit organization, that tends to provide access to education for underprivileged students across Lebanon, regardless of their gender, religion, location, or performance (Teach A Child 2023). Thus, these efforts highlight the determination and resilience of educational institutions and community organizations in Hasbaya District to minimize the impact of the economic crisis and maintain educational opportunities for students.
Amidst the turbulent landscape of Lebanon’s economic crisis, the Hasbaya District is a microcosm of the challenges students and teachers face in the country’s educational system. This comprehensive research has delved into the repercussions of economic turmoil on student enrollment rates and the teaching and learning process in private and public schools within the district. By elucidating this specific and previously unexplored topic, and by providing invaluable firsthand experiences and insights from parents and teachers, this study has bridged a critical gap in the existing literature. Economic crises have led to a significant shift in enrollment rates, with families compelled to switch their children from private to public schools due to financial constraints. However, localized interventions by some private schools in Hasbaya District have countered this trend, making private education more accessible and attractive to families facing economic difficulties. Also, the educational landscape has been marred by the relentless onslaught of the economic crisis, leaving the teaching and learning processes in a state of disarray. The impact of low salaries, widespread layoffs, and the departure of experienced teachers to alternative sectors has created a scarcity of qualified educators. This scarcity, coupled with the overwhelming issue of overcrowded classrooms and limited capacity, has placed an immense strain on the resources and infrastructure of educational institutions, making it a struggle to provide all students with a high-quality education. As we navigate the stormy seas, let the experiences and resilience of Hasbaya District serve as a beacon of hope. Together, we can weather the storm, empower our students, and forge a brighter future for the Hasbaya District and beyond.
AbiNader,J & McLellan,J. 2021. American Task Force on Lebanon. October 29. https://www.atfl.org/lebanese-education-sector-in-danger-of-generational-damage/.
ACRPS. 2019. The Lebanon Uprising: Causes and Ramifications. October 24. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/the-lebanon-uprising-causes-and-ramifications/.
2023. Alarabiya News. March 2. https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Most-of-Lebanon-s-children-have-not-been-in-school-for-months.
Babin, J. 2020. COMMERCE. February 6. https://www.lecommercedulevant.com/article/29627-the-economic-crisis-has-pushed-40000-students-to-join-public-schools.
Bamigboye, G. O., Anthony Ede, and Gideon Adeyemi. 2016. “Impact of economic crisis on education: case study of southwest Nigeria.”.” Research Gate 2895.
BBC. 2019. Lebanon protests: How WhatsApp tax anger revealed a much deeper crisis. November 7. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50293636.
Bisat, A., Cassard, M., Diwan, I. 2021. Lebanon’s economic crisis: A tragedy in the making. March 29. https://www.mei.edu/publications/lebanons-economic-crisis-tragedy-making.
CASS. 2023. Community Association for Student Support. https://vymaps.com/LB/-Community-Association-For-Student-Support-219998932088664/.
Corps, M. 2023. Effects of the Ukraine conflict on Lebanon’s economic and humanitarian crisis – one year on. Lebanon: relief Web.
Elharake, F. 2023. Facebook. March 9. https://www.facebook.com/101023428041946/posts/pfbid0x6qcdeakayEpe1mPANy3UEUELyS9GRXyky6pvNBngJkL51uHqgJ3HyNgZ1Fsvdkfl/?mibextid=Nif5oz.
Lee, Sharon E. 2013. “Education as a Human Right in the 21st Century.” Democracy and Education 7.
Rydan, R. 2022. Lebanon’s economic crisis threatens education sector. June 2. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/05/lebanons-economic-crisis-threatens-education-sector.
Slade, S. & Griffith, D. 2013. “A whole child approach to student success.” KEDI Journal of Educational Policy.
2023. Teach A Child. https://www.facebook.com/Teach.a.Child?mibextid=ZbWKwL.
UN. 2023. Lebanon Emergency Response Plan 2023. May 4. https://lebanon.un.org/en/230731-lebanon-emergency-response-plan-2023.
 Sara, private school teacher, Hasbaya, Lebanon, May 7, 2023.
 Dalal, private school teacher, Habaya, Lebanon, May 16, 2023.
 Aya, public school teacher, Hasbaya, Lebanon, May 25, 2023.
 Ghassan, public school teacher, Hasbaya, Lebanon, May 30, 2023.
 Manal, private school parent, Hasbaya, Lebanon, June 13, 2023.
 Mazen, public school parent, Hasbaya, Lebanon, June 15. 2023.