In Lebanon, training for a trade… and for living together

Lebanon, vocational training, classroom, Rabbo
In Lebanon,
training for a trade…
and for living together
+ 30
projects supported in Lebanon since the 2000s
EUR 1.1bn
committed over the same period
NGOs supported by AFD to address the Syrian crisis
Every evening, in a technical school in the Northern suburb of Beirut, vocational training is given to Lebanese people and Syrian refugees… or how to learn a trade while learning to know others.

Since the outbreak of the war in Syria, Lebanon and its four million inhabitants have hosted some one and a half million Syrian refugees. Most of these displaced persons live in the country’s poorest regions and were welcomed with open arms when the conflict broke out in the spring of 2011. But their presence now places a burden on host communities, which are worried about their own access to employment and basic services.

The international community, along with the Lebanese Government, has established an action plan to support both refugees and host communities. In this context, AFD is taking action to reduce weaknesses and assist Lebanon towards more balanced and sustainable development. Our agency has indeed financed over thirty projects in Lebanon since the early 2000s.

A project set up by the European Institute for Cooperation and Development (IECD) and its Lebanese partner Semeurs d’Avenir (SDA), for which the EUR 5m cost is being financed by AFD, came into being in 2017. It contributes to rapidly improving living conditions for vulnerable Lebanese populations and refugees via access to employment, in particular through a program of short training courses. The training is provided to an equal number of Lebanese people and refugees to ensure social cohesion and allows the vocational and social integration of a public of low-skilled young adults.

Lebanon, training, classroom, Rabbo
Lebanon, vocational training, Jihad, Rabbo
Jihad el-Khatib is a trainer who has been working with IECD for three years. This 36-year-old engineer lives in Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), where he has been teaching for 11 years in technical schools which provide training in the maintenance of air conditioners and refrigerators. It is this know-how that he also transfers to young Lebanese people and Syrian and Iraqi refugees who follow IECD training courses.

“I don’t only teach them the techniques of the trade, but also how to deal with the client: not to lie, work conscientiously and be honest”, explains Jihad.

For many people, Jihad el-Khatib is not only a trainer. He is also a big brother and a friend. He offers a listening ear to his students, and helps them solve their problems and have confidence in themselves. He even organizes excursions and picnics for them on days off.

“This helps break their routine, as my students come from difficult backgrounds, and it encourages them to accept others. It is difficult for refugees to get integrated and for Lebanese people to accept this situation”, explains the young man.

“Often, in the classroom, when I start a training session for IECD and the problem of integration starts to come up, I tell the Lebanese students who complain about the Syrian refugees recruited on the black market in Lebanon: ‘If you yourselves had to leave your country, you would be willing to do any job at any price”, explains Jihad el-Khatib. “I also tell them that one day the refugees will inevitably return to their country and that us Lebanese will go to work in their country to rebuild Syria, as a significant labor force will be required. Lebanese workers will certainly benefit from this”.

Jihad el-Khatib also points out the extent to which “this type of training is not easy to give. Often, in the same class, apart from the different nationalities we have, we are faced with a heterogeneous class in terms of age and academic and professional skills”. So, we need to ensure that it is accessible to everyone and keep the teaching interesting”.
Lebanon, vocational training, Ammar, Rabbo
Ammar el-Jassem is 23. He comes from Adnaniyé, a village near Raqqa in Northern Syria. He arrived in Lebanon three and a half years ago. “On 23 June 2014”, he points out, remembering the day when his life changed dramatically. Ammar el-Jassem comes from a family of 12 children. He dreamed of studying geography. This is in fact what he did when he arrived in Lebanon. He enrolled at university, but very quickly had to drop out as he could not afford to continue to pay the tuition fees. He ended up as a caretaker in a building in the Aïntoura district in Northern Beirut.

He is now following training in electricity provided by IECD. He heard about these lessons through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). When Ammar talks about his current job tears come to his eyes. “My family owns a lot of land… and I have become a caretaker. All work is valuable work and I need every cent to survive”, he sighs. Even if the militia from the Islamic State group have left his village, Ammar el-Jassem is not ready to go home. “I would have to do military service and remain a reservist in the Syrian army”, he explains.

When he mentions the integration of Syrians in Lebanon, he looks at his classmate Rana Elia: “Look at us, Rana and me. We are friends, we help each other in class, we discuss together. We are above all human beings.” His dream? Go back to Syria, see his family again and go back to university to follow geography lessons.
Lebanon, vocational training, Rana, Rabbo
Rana Elias, a 22-year-old Lebanese woman, is the only girl following the training in electricity. Just like many Lebanese people who struggle to make ends meet and do one training course after another, this resident of the Northern suburb of Beirut wanted to follow the courses provided by IECD.

“I initially had technical training in decoration. I have another technical diploma in accounting. I wanted to continue university studies in interior design, but I can’t afford it”, says the young woman. “I arrived in this center in Dekouané to see what was in offer. As I am an accountant in a shop which sells lighting and electrical items, I opted for this training, and I feel that I have become more important in the company”, she says.

When she mentions how the Lebanese perceive Syrians, she criticizes the attitude of a number of her compatriots who blame the displaced persons for everything. “This is not my case. In this center and in the context of this training, we are protected and friendships between Syrians and Lebanese people are accepted. This is unfortunately not the case when we leave here, but I will fight against all to maintain my friendship with Ammar”.

Rana Elias is faithful to the Lebanese spirit of entrepreneurship and dreams of becoming a trader herself and having her own company, either in the field of decoration or in electricity, to improve her life, without forgetting the lives of the Syrian refugees in her country.