MAI is funding two thirds of the cost of this innovative pilot project in two Government schools in Beirut, Lebanon.  It aims to demonstrate the value of working with children who have learning differences and mental health issues.  The first academic year has just been completed and a copy of the report is available on request to [email protected].

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In Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, children with physical or mental challenges are often marginalised. One third of Lebanese children are educated in state schools, where provision for special needs children doesn’t exist. And of the thousands of private schools that provide support for children with special needs, few of them do an adequate job.

Although the Government planned to undertake some pilot projects in public schools to address the needs of children with learning difficulties, very little has happened due to the pressures caused by the refugee crisis. In a country of 4 million Lebanese people, there’s estimated to be as many as 1.6 million Syrian refugees.

We’re starting a new two-year partnership project in Beirut with the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), which aims to help children with mental and physical challenges that affect their learning. The work will be done through LSESD’s SKILD (Smart Kids with Individual Learning Differences) division, which is highly respected by the government. They established a National Awareness Day in 2013, with British Council assistance and support of the Ministry of Education, which has become an annual event with dinners, publicity and a week of training events. SKILD believes that if it can show the effectiveness of interventions and training of state school teachers, it will be able to attract international governmental support for its work.

With our help, SKILD is running a two-year pilot project in two public schools – both of which have many Syrian refugees alongside Lebanese pupils. They will conduct pupil assessments, coach existing staff, and create appropriate interventions, including one-to-one sessions. The aim is to empower existing staff in the schools to learn approaches that are inclusive of special needs pupils alongside other students, rather than marginalising or excluding these pupils. We believe these pilot projects will demonstrate the value of such work, and inspire funding from donors in Lebanon and overseas.

This project is in a part of the world, and with a focus, that is new to MAI – which is a challenge. At the same time, we believe there’s an opportunity not only to change the lives of disadvantaged children, but to leverage support for a fantastic organisation sharing our Christian values. Work in the two pilot schools started in September 2015. The annual cost of the project is £70,000, half of which was raised through MAI’s Annual Appeal.

A gift of £100 a month would facilitate the support a child with learning challenges, enabling them to flourish in their special abilities while remaining among their peers.

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