One in four children could miss school after Beirut blast: IRC

A quarter of the school-age children in Lebanon’s capital risk missing out on school after last month’s deadly port explosion, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid group has warned.

“With 163 schools damaged by the Beirut explosion, at least one in four children in the city are now at risk of missing out on their education,” it said in a statement on Monday, referring to the August 4 blast.

The IRC said its estimations were based on the impact of the blast alone and did not take into account the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has already disrupted school and university education globally.

“Over 85,000 pupils were registered at the schools damaged by the blasts and it will take up to a year for the most severely damaged buildings to be repaired,” it added.

The explosion of a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrate at Beirut port killed some 200 people, wounded thousands more and ravaged buildings in surrounding residential neighbourhoods, leaving at least 300,000 people homeless.

The destruction of public and private schools due to the blast has so far impacted more than 70,000 Lebanese students and 7,600 teachers, according to the United Nations children’s fund.

The explosion was a devastating blow to a country already facing its worst economic crisis in decades and a series of lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

‘High drop-out rate’

The IRC said the slow pace of rebuilding, parents’ concerns over the cost and safety of transport to alternative schools, and children being sent to work to help their struggling families could be keeping the pupils out of class.

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