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INSERT I s s u e N o Building a JUST. Lebanese Society. Lebanese Baptist Society

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INSERT I s s u e N o Building a JUST Lebanese Society Lebanese Baptist Society 2 ontents 3 The Poor in Lebanon Who Cares! Who Cares Poverty in Lebanon - Who Cares! by Rupen Das, Director of
INSERT I s s u e N o Building a JUST Lebanese Society Lebanese Baptist Society 2 ontents 3 The Poor in Lebanon Who Cares! Who Cares Poverty in Lebanon - Who Cares! by Rupen Das, Director of Lebanon Baptist Aid at the Lebanese Baptist Society The Realities of Children and Individuals with Learning Differences in Lebanon by Nabil Costa, Executive Director of the Lebanese Baptist Society Mercy, Humanity & Justice by Martin Accad, Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary By Rupen Das In 1847, two decades after he first served in the city, Henri Guys, the former French consul, described Beirut as having consulates from almost every nation, commercial establishments, hotels, well-stocked stores, a European pharmacy, and finally a casino a luxury that only ports of the first rank can permit themselves. Three years later the French writer and photographer Maxime du Camp described the city as incomparable, waxing eloquent on the country that surrounds it, the forest of parasol pines, the road bordered with nopals, myrtle, and pomegranate trees in which chameleons run; the view of the Mediterranean and the aspect of the wooded summits of the Lebanon that draw the purity of their lines on the sky. He concluded that the city was a retreat for the contemplative, for the disillusioned, for those who have been wounded by existence; it seems to me that one can live happily there doing nothing but looking at the mountains and the sea. Such reviews of the city, along with the opening of its port to steam ships, drew visitors to what would eventually become known as the Paris of the Middle East, a city whose residents were eager to show it off to the world. This period in the country s history perhaps also proved to be the beginning of the creation of Lebanon s public or tourist face. In the intervening 160 years, Lebanon s popularity amongst international travelers has been derailed for significant periods by conflict and instability, especially while the Civil War raged from However, the past two decades, and particularly the past five years have seen the country work toward a return to its former glory. As postwar reconstruction has neared completion, economic growth has been steady and travel writers and publishers have once again branded Lebanon s capital as a vacation hotspot. There is a sense that any outstanding destabilizing issues in Lebanon are to be found in the realm of politics and security, and that those are the only issues that need to be addressed. This has even, on occasion, been the impression of international donors who have come to Lebanon with the specific objective of assessing projects 4 Rural poor urban slums lack of o p p o r t u n i t i e s high cost of living 5 Prof iles of Poverty The human face of poverty in Lebanon Rupen Das Julie Davidson with Niamh Fleming-Farrell (ed.) to contribute their money to; they see the picture of a city that clearly appears to be back on its feet and ask themselves if there are not more deserving recipients for their aid elsewhere in the world. The reality is that Lebanon has done such a good job of restoring its image that visitors must employ conscious effort to observe the persistence of a very real poverty and need in the city and country. There are dark threads and shadows that weave throughout the fabric of Lebanese society. One such thread is revealed in the 2008 UNDP country study on Lebanon which states that percent of the population is poor and an additional 7.97 percent is extremely poor, totaling percent more than a quarter of the population living below the poverty line. The extremely poor are clustered far below the upper poverty line. Not only is 28.56% of the population below the national poverty line, foreigners (including migrant workers and refugees) number almost a million people, another 20% of the population. While many may not be poor, most are vulnerable and live on the edges of poverty with very few resources to withstand any emergencies or shocks. In a country that is blessed with water, fertile soil, an industrious people, a thriving tourist industry, and a huge global Diaspora, why are more than a quarter of the population poor? Poverty in a middle-income country like Lebanon is often seen as an embarrassment. Most people are not even aware of the extent of it in the country; much less understand its causes and dynamics. Lebanon is one of the few countries in the region that is not resource rich and is dependent on service industries like tourism and hospitality, banking and financial services, and as a transshipment point for trade. All of these are easily disrupted by political tensions, uncertainty, violence and conflict. This places severe restrictions on the Government s budget to address issues like poverty. As Lebanon has recovered from the ravages of the fifteen year Civil War, there were huge changes in the demographics of the country. One of these changes has been the emergence of new vulnerable groups within the population. These now include the Bedouins, the Dom people (also known as gypsies or Nawars), migrant workers and more specifically foreign domestic workers, refugees, and children (those of refugees, of prisoners, of migrant workers, street kids, etc.). Child labor is a reality not only in the urban areas but also in many of the rural areas (especially those that cultivate tobacco). This is in addition to the traditionally rural poor who live in pockets in the north, in the Bekaa and in the south. The poor also include Lebanese who have migrated from the rural areas to the urban centers, and because of the lack of opportunities and the high cost of housing, live in urban slums or slum-like conditions. Poverty is manifested in a variety of ways. Those who do not have citizenship cannot access healthcare or education. They are not entitled to access the public system and they often cannot afford the private system. Those who live near the southern borders of the country live with constant feelings of insecurity as they have been displaced numerous times because of war and violence. They not only lose their livelihoods but they also incur considerable damage to their homes and property. Secure livelihoods are the key to ensuring that the poor can find a way out of poverty, yet, in Lebanon, most of the poor work in the informal sector as fishermen, agricultural labor, street vendors, as construction workers and in restaurants. All of these livelihoods (other than those in restaurants) are in the outdoors and are dependent on weather. Many find it difficult to work during the winter months or during periods of inclement weather. The seasonality of income sufficiency has a huge impact on the ability of the poor to save. There is no surplus. Most of the workers in the informal sector do not have marketable vocational skills, and whatever skills they do have they have learnt on the job. Not having any financial or material reserves or assets that they can leverage, the urban and rural poor as well as the refugees are limited in their coping mechanisms. The very few who have families overseas depend on them not so much for monthly supplements to their income but to get through their difficult times. All the others will borrow from the extended family, or in urban areas buy from the local store on credit. The poor who work in the informal sector also have low levels of education and very few vocational skills, with little or no access to gain any kind of skills training. The rural poor either do not own land or own very small plots of land that provide for their own needs with almost no surplus. The urban poor are either squatters in urban slums or they may own their house, though the tenureship on the land may be insecure. The quality of the houses in both the rural and urban areas is consistently poor and often overcrowded. Childhood nutrition is poor and it is suspected that there are higher levels of micronutrient deficiencies among the poor because of poor eating habits. This was evident in the stunting (implying long term nutritional deficiency) witnessed among the Bedouins and in some communities in the south. With regards to the refugee populations, Lebanon is not a signatory to the Conventions for the Right of Refugees and as a result most refugees have limited protection and varying access to basic services. All refugees in the country face an uncertain future, unless they are repatriated to their own countries or are resettled in a third country. Those that remain, live on the edges of poverty. The government provides for access to basic services like health and education for those who are Lebanese citizens. The quality of public health services varies considerably across the country. Some health centers are adequately staffed with enough medical and pharmaceutical supplies while others are severely understaffed with irregular supplies. The quality of the public schools also varies. Some are staffed and run properly providing a basic education, but in others the infrastructure is run down and staff missing. While most children will attend primary school until about grades 3-5, the dropout rates after that are very high in the poorer communities. Children will drop out to take care of younger siblings while both parents work or they will themselves work in the informal sectors. A smaller percentage finishes high school through to the Brevet level. Only a few make it to university, especially from the rural areas or from marginalized groups like the Bedouins or the Dom people. The fragmented and confessional nature of Lebanese society makes it very difficult for young people 6 7 from these marginalized communities to find work even with a university degree because they do not have wasta or influence at the right places. The few who do have university degrees end up teaching in schools or starting their own small business. What makes the face of poverty different in a country like Lebanon is that poverty cannot be addressed only by ensuring access to services and subsidies, or by improving livelihoods and income. These are valuable interventions and will prevent extreme poverty but will rarely improve the socioeconomic status of the poor and enable them to move out of poverty. The confessional and communal structure of Lebanese society does not allow for social mobility. So while the poor may be able to access education up to a basic level, they are unable to move out of chronic poverty and continue to remain vulnerable. The poor belong to marginalized communities and as a result are either geographically isolated in remote parts of the country or socially isolated in pockets in urban areas. They remain voiceless and powerless because those with influence and power ignore them. Amartya Sen writes in Development as Freedom, Central to the challenges we face in the contemporary world is our idea of an acceptable society What can we do to make society more tolerable? Underlying such ideas lie some theories of evaluation and often implicitly even some basic understandings of social justice. Beyond the realities and constraints of confessionalism (which is right now the bedrock of Lebanese society), what kind of just society does Lebanon envisage and where do the poor fit into the national agenda? BIOGRAPHY Rupen Das Rupen Das is a global field staff of Canadian Baptist Ministries, on secondment to LSESD as Director of Lebanon Baptist Aid. Previous to this he was professor and Program Coordinator of International Project Management at the Business School of Humber College in Toronto. He has extensive experience in development and humanitarian assistance having been the Director for Emergency Response and Disaster Mitigation at World Vision Canada. He has worked as a consultant to the Canadian Government (CIDA), UNDP, IFAD, Christian Children s Fund Canada, Plan International, the Agha Khan Foundation s humanitarian organization, the Pearson Peacekeeping Center, and others. His graduate and undergraduate degrees are from Syracuse University, and he is at present doing his doctoral studies at Acadia University. He has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. In 2011 he co-authored the book Profiles of Poverty: The human face of poverty in Lebanon. 8 9 THE REALITY OF CHILDREN AND INDIVIDUALS WITH LEARNING DIFFERENCES IN LEBANON DIFFERENCES A Call for Increased Public Awareness and Improved Legislation By Nabil Costa Education and culture play a key role in the well-being of any nation and its people. The more educated and cultured its citizens, the higher a nation s chances are of being developed and enjoying stability, as more people will be capable of serving their society and supporting themselves and their families. More than sixty years ago, the Baptist community in Lebanon began its journey in the field of education. For more than half a decade now, the Beirut Baptist School (BBS), one of the oldest ministries of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), has been offering high quality education to students from different denominations. Other evangelical denominations followed suit, founding schools and institutions of higher education in different regions of Lebanon. Some of them, like BBS, are anchored in non-christian neighborhoods, and they are accepted by the communities; in fact, nearly 80% of students at evangelical schools in Lebanon are Muslim. Non-Christian parents choose evangelical schools because of the high quality education and communicated core Christian values of love, respect, and acceptance for all people, regardless of background. It is interesting to note that Lebanon was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child after the United Nations General Assembly adopted it in Yet, to this day, childre n who have special needs still suffer discrimination in school and society. The vast majority of those who manage to reach postsecondary education drop out before attaining a degree. Their lack of education leads to major lifelong challenges for these individuals, because they are not given the chance to equip themselves with skills that would enable them to find employment to support themselves and their families. As part of its mission, namely to serve the Church in Lebanon and the Arab World through spiritual, social, and educational development, LSESD has for several years been paying close attention to the problems faced by students with special needs. Serving and helping these individuals and their families is among our top priorities. We do not merely feel for these individuals and sympathize with them; we are working hard to help find the best approach to improve their situation. We are speaking here of a sizeable number of people from all age groups. Up to 10% of the population in Lebanon faces a bleak future because they have special needs. This includes children who are capable of learning, and who are talented and gifted, but who have specific learning differences (also known as learning difficulties or learning disabilities) that prevent them from learning at the same speed, and in the same way, as their cohorts; each one of them has an individual way of capturing and processing information. Do you happen to know of a child who performs poorly on tests and standard evaluations, yet you feel certain that he or she is intelligent ; the child understands instructions, possesses skills, and perhaps is talented? From direct knowledge and personal experience, I can assure you that there are many children who fit this description in our schools in Lebanon, but who unfortunately do not receive the care and attention they need in class and as a result often end up dropping out before reaching high school. These children do not need to go to specialized institutions. They can learn and master the same skills as their peers who do not have learning differences; they can go to a regular school and finish the whole curriculum, if there is a special education program in place and special educators to work with them. The Lebanese government s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child means that all subsequent governments are bound by it and have an obligation to see that it is respected in the laws, policies, and practices. However, this is not the reality in Lebanon. Children with special needs still face discrimination at school and in society. It is imperative that Lebanon forge its way towards a culture that genuinely respects the rights of human beings - all human beings - no matter who they are and how they differ from the mainstream. It is time for us to push for a law (or laws) and policies that prevent discrimination against these children and safeguard their rights and needs, ultimately paving the way for their integration in society. Some activists in the field of education and civil society are in contact with the government to attempt to work on the problem. Efforts are being made to enable children with special needs to finish school and sit for official exams, and later move on to higher education. There is a great deal that needs to be done in this respect. This brief overview will shed light on some basic facts about individuals with learning differences, their reality in Lebanon, as well as initiatives that are underway to develop a culture that respects these people, their rights, and their needs. I will conclude with 10 11 a series of recommendations; these are concrete steps that the government needs to take for the country to make significant progress towards ending discrimination against children and individuals with special needs. Key Information About Learning Differences In order to help individuals with learning differences, it s important to be aware of some basic facts. For one, if a child or an individual has learning differences it does not necessarily mean that the person is ill or needs to be institutionalized. Many highly successful people have suffered from learning differences that prevented them from moving up the educational ladder like their peers. Consider the example of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. The former was considered to be mentally delayed compared to his cohorts. The latter did not start to speak until he was three years old and he was never able to overcome difficulties in speech and pronunciation, as well as making calculations. A culture of respect for children and individuals with special needs requires knowledge of the following facts: 1) Individuals with learning differences suffer because the results they Individuals with learning differences suffer because the results they achieve in skills or tasks is lower than their actual capacity; when given the chance to learn in a way that s appropriate for them, their results improve. achieve in skills or tasks is lower 4) Learning differences cannot be accompanying disability (AD/HD for than their actual capacity; when treated by taking medication. In example), but this is by no means given the chance to learn in a way some cases it might be necessary always the case. At the same that s appropriate for them, their to take medication to treat an time, it s possible for someone with results improve. accompanying condition, but learning differences or other special needs to be gifted with special learning differences themselves are 2) Neurological dysfunction could talents and abilities. not treated this way. potentially be behind the child s 8) Someone who is identified as having inability to learn and achieve as well 5) Helping someone with learning a severe mental disability cannot as other students in the class; but differences can only lead to also be identified as having learning they are not the cause of learning positive outcomes if assistance and differences. difficulties in all cases. For example, monitoring are provided over a long it has been proven that learning period of tim
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