With just over a million Syrian refugees, Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita. This puts enormous pressure on already limited capacities of Lebanese infrastructure and public services, particularly within the higher education sector. Only less than 5% now have access to higher education. Failing to provide education to refugees not only prevents their adaptation to local life and job market but also hinders the skills development for the reconstruction of Syria.
In response to this dire need, SPARK established its presence in Lebanon at the end of 2015 with an office running projects that support the development of higher education for the vulnerable youth. The Lebanon office launched its first higher education programme at the end of 2015, offering opportunities for youth to pursue their education and lead their conflict-affected societies into prosperity. Now SPARK works with institutes in the North, Bekaa, Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
In this short period SPARK Lebanon has gained trust and support of several higher education institutions, such as the American University of Beirut, which started courses in project management and interior design. The program expanded in 2016 to offer studies in ICDL, Early Childhood Teaching, and Nursing. Furthermore, in cooperation with Al-Qairawan vocational school, Al Shark, CIS, AUC, Omar al Mukhtar Institute, Makhzoumi foundation and Al Tamkin, SPARK offers students vocational training accredited by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. In 2017, SPARK granted full scholarship programmes in collaboration with Al Fakhoora and the EU MADAD trust fund for Bachelor and TVET students and grew to include 13 higher education institutes all over Lebanon.
The most recent agreements were made between SPARK and the Lebanese International University in 2016, enrolling 320 students in their campuses, and in 2017/18 with the American University of Science and Technology and Universite Saint Joseph. Other universities partners such as Al Jinan, Arab Open University and Imam Ouzaii are also enrolling SPARK students.Application Center