The Constantinian Charitable Trust
The charity event took place on the 30th September and was described by many of the people who attended as a success certainly well beyond our expectations. Nearly 150 attended to hear the Chairman of the College Governors, Paul O’Shea, highlight the centrality of the College’s mission to support others. Both Danny Coyle and fellow TCCT trustee Cristoforo Rocco (Treasurer) described in detail how TCCT planned to support our partner Caritas Lebanon’s educational efforts as well as the two ASP centres in the Beirut suburbs. Danny Coyle and I interviewed via a Zoom link Rev Fr Michel Abboud, President of Caritas Lebanon, who spoke via a pre-recorded message from Beirut about the devastating challenges facing families in his city at this time. Another highlight of the evening were the words of a Year 10 Newman College pupil, Moussa, who explained in a moving tribute how the support he has received from the College and wider community in Brent as a refugee from Syria has been fundamental to his success.
The evening concluded with a delicious buffet supper generously donated by a local Lebanese restaurant. Present in addition to the trustees, staff of Newman Catholic College and pupils there were teachers from 9 local schools, Ms Rasha El Haddad, First Secretary of the Embassy of Lebanon, several members of the clergy including Fr Fadi Kmeid, the Superior of Our Lady of Lebanon, and Bishop John Sherrington, Auxilary Bishop of the Westminster Diocese. We were also delighted to welcome colleagues from Brent Council including the Mayor, Cllr Lia Colacicco, and representatives of the Diocese of Westminster Education Service. All who attended committed to support the London Schools Project to help these children in Beirut and expressed their enthusiasm to learn more about the work of the TCCT.
There is a shared vision in Beirut and London: building a path to the future with young people through education, overcoming the obstacles put in their way. As the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote: ‘You make a path by walking’. At the TCCT and our partners in the London Schools Project we hope there will be many walking with the young students in Beirut no longer deprived of essential education and whenever necessary being able to seek vital help by attending after-school classes in the future.
My best wishes to you all
31 De Vere Gardens
London W8 5AW
Letter from Professor Ian Linden, CMG
19 November 2021
Lebanon’s public and semi-private education system is close to total collapse. Against this background TCCT has launched the London Schools Project.
Pope Francis in his recent message on BBC Chanel 4’s Thought for the Day spoke of the need for responses to climate change providing ‘concrete hope for the future’. It is a phrase that has echoes for all those struggling and working in education in Lebanon against terrible odds. And it is the motivation for The Constantinian Charitable Trust’s (TCCT) support for Caritas Lebanon’s educational activities and the Afterschool Program (ASP) in particular. Neither we nor Caritas Lebanon underestimate the obstacles but, in the memorable words of Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.
Human Rights Watch recently described Lebanon’s public (state) school system as on the ‘verge of collapse’. With no increase in salaries and the purchasing power of Lebanese currency having depreciated 90%, the country’s many semi-private schools, many run by religious congregations, are struggling to survive as impoverished parents withdraw their children for lack of money. A UN-OCHA (Office for the Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs) Report this August described between 100,000-120,000 pupils moving from the private/semi private to the public sector schools further exacerbating the overcrowding that is already endemic. The knock-on effect of desperate parents withdrawing their children from these understaffed and completely overwhelmed schools, taking them out of education-the same report estimates that this is occurring in 15% of Lebanese families with a significantly higher percentage among Syrian refugees-will be a national disaster. A UNICEF report (2021) estimates in addition 77% of families don’t have enough food and the situation is so bad that in 30% of families children miss meals.
Schools can’t afford basic supplies: stationary, computer equipment, even what is needed for basic anti COVID hygiene and PPE. There are reports of teachers unable to pay the cost of transport to work. What is certain is an escalating exodus of teachers, following that of doctors and nurses, particularly in Beirut. A strike by teachers has just been suspended pending government fulfilling its promise of some salary increase so allowing schools to re-open several weeks after the official start of the academic year. Official electricity supply remains unpredictable and sporadic and available for two hours a day unless there are the means to take advantage of extremely expensive private locally generated electricity. Hope is in equally short supply. Lebanon feels broken, forgotten, isolated and extremely vulnerable.
It is against this background that TCCT launched the London Schools Project in 2021 with the objective of linking up a group of schools in London with schools in Lebanon, firstly in Beirut, as well as fund raising to enable ASP centres to restart their vital educational work. With this objective in mind, the TCCT held an awareness-building and fund-raising event at Newman Catholic College in Harlesden (London) led by Danny Coyle the Head Teacher and TCCT trustee. Over the past 6/7 years the school has supported the development of hundreds of children refugees from Syria living in London. This include the establishment of after-school and holiday provision as well as a highly successful Summer School.