Inclusive Exclusion: Education of Palestinian Refugee Students In Lebanon

By Maha Shuayb
Submitted to Session P4322 (Success as Subjugation: Palestinian Education under Settler Colonialism, 2016 Annual Meeting
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Lebanon;
Education;
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The education of refugees in emergencies or protracted situations is a challenging task for many of the hosting countries, which often struggle to provide relief and ensure access to basic needs such as shelter, food and health. Access to education is often among the priorities of hosting countries, however it embodies within it particularities that deserve a key focus. Striking a balance between the need to integrate refugees into host countries whilst at the same time maintaining their specific culture, identity and language in the education process has often proven to be quite a difficult task and an issue that is often overlooked. Two main approaches to the education of refugees are often observed. The first is focused on their social, urban and economic integration, whilst the second considers them as temporary guests in a state of emergency who would return back shortly to their home countries. In the latter case, the education provisions often overlook the socio-economic outcomes and effects for the refugees on the job market. Lebanon adopts a rather paradoxical approach to education of the refugees. It insists on teaching only the Lebanese national curriculum as the only certified curriculum resulting in the acculturation of whole generations. At the same time, it applies various forms of restrictions on the integration of the refugees in the economic, social and political life.

For more than 65 years, Palestinian refugees have been living in Lebanon in a ‘temporary’ state in over-crowded camps, deprived of basic rights such as the right to have a professional job while being forced to learn the Lebanese national curriculum. It has been argued that these restrictions have had a major effect on the fair provision and quality of education, an effect manifested in the increasing number of Palestinian students who are dropping out of school. This paper examines the paradoxical approach adopted in Lebanon in hosting the Palestinian refugees which is described as inclusive exclusion. This approach resulted in low education attainment for a large number of the student population. The same approach is currently being adopted almost 70 years later with the Syrian refugee population and Palestinians fleeing Syria. While the paper is focused on access and quality of education at UNRWA schools in Lebanon which hosts the majority of Palestinian refugees children in Lebanon, it compares this approach to the one being currently adopted for the Syrian refugees children in Lebanon.