It was once located on the grounds of the Uruguayan Embassy in Lebanon, and the name has somehow stuck. Now, Uruguay Elementary School is in a new building in an altogether different, bustling area of Beirut. It is hard to recognize it as a school at first: a seven-story building among other tall offices and manufacturing plants beside a major thoroughfare.
With newspaper headlines focused on violence and political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa region, it is easy to forget that an annual beginning is also underway. Children from the Mashreq to the Maghreb have started going back to school. Parents are buying school supplies for little ones and millions of teenagers are going down a path that may shape their future careers. This week, Voices and Views presents Back to School 2013 - a series focused on the challenges that both teachers and students face in the region, and the policies and programs that can change a generation.
From the World Bank office in Tripoli, Representative Marouane El Abassi outlines his commitment to helping Libya build a new state, with a strategy that ensures the right skills and expertise are delivered at the right time.
"Syria's neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan in particular, have shown tremendous hospitality and tremendous generosity [in hosting the influx of Syrian refugees]. The international community needs to help them carry that burden, as they should not have to bear it alone." Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director.
Today in Sana’a, the international community and the Government of Yemen once again came together to track progress on Yemen’s transition and the agreements between the country and its donors. The 2012 peace initiative determined the transition to include a national dialogue bringing together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country (this is already underway), the drafting of a new constitution, and new elections. All of this is meant to be completed by February, 2014.
For its level of per-capita income (around $1,500), the Palestinian territories have among the best social indicators in the world. These achievements are all the more remarkable given the difficult economic circumstances facing the Palestinian territories. In contrast to other countries such as India, Indonesia or Peru, teachers in the Palestinian territories do teach and clinics are staffed with health workers.
The urgent need for help in coping with the massive influx of refugees is especially clear in towns like Mafraq near the Syrian border.
In Gaza earlier this week I met a group of students learning cutting-edge computer animation skills at a technical institute we support. And I met a crowd of women in a small village where simple street paving has made all the difference to their mobility, their children’s health and access to education, and I sensed, their civic pride. All good barometers of development you'd think except these particular students go out into an economy where youth unemployment hovers at around 50 percent with few prospects for improvement.
Yemeni women are some of the fiercest women I have ever met. Through conflicts and famine, many have had to struggle for the survival of their families. The abject poverty afflicts Yemeni women in particularly harsh ways, yet they carry on and persevere. Still, their pride in their culture and love for their beautiful country always shines through.