Lebanese Youth: The Far Light at the End of the Tunnel

 By Noura Ghader 

 I. The Corruption and Drowning Of Youth Dreams 

Since more than 30 years ago, Lebanon has been drowning in the obscurity and corruption. All the attempts taken by Lebanese politicians to hide the enormity of what they have been causing failed. They failed on October 17, 2019 when a big number of Lebanese citizens, especially youth, went to streets to defend their basic human rights. However, it was a bit late to start taking action because Lebanon and the dreams of its youth have been already struggling to breathe. Today, with the new stressors adding up, UNESCWA predicts that more than 55% of the Lebanese population is trapped in poverty and not able to secure their main needs (food, medications, clothes, education…). Moreover, after the start of protests all around Lebanon, the outbreak of COVID-19 and Beirut explosion, many Lebanese Children and youth had to drop out of schools and universities. This adds to the shift, from the private sector to the public sector, that many students had to go through. It’s known that the quality of education in public schools in Lebanon is poorer than that of the private schools because the government is careless enough to focus on this very important field. Furthermore, the economic crisis that made the Lebanese currency lose more than 90% of its value made the salary of teachers in Lebanon worth 1-2 USD/ hour. Not to forget that online education is not being accessible to many students because of the severe electricity problems. 

Finally, students who are graduating from university are being stuck with unemployment. The percentage of unemployment is expected to reach 6.70 % by the end of 2021 due to the lack of available jobs in the labor market and the low salaries that are not even enough to pay for fuel in order to reach the work place. Despite all of these draining circumstances, this paper will show how Lebanese youth are still pushing through and trying to plant hope in the most hopeless spots in the country. 

II. Youth in Politics 

The October 17 revolution changed the game when it comes to the participation of Lebanese youth in Politics. When we say youth, we do not target all the young people because there is a percentage of them who are still politically affiliated and unaware of the deep political analysis. However, a significant number of youth proved their engagement and understanding of the political game to a big extent. Starting 2020, Lebanese youth flipped a very dirty page by leaving the political parties and starting to be more engaged with the independent ones. Although the sectarian elite is still controlling Beirut, the case is no more the same in most Lebanese campuses. Today, most Lebanese universities have formed secular clubs with dedicated members that went to each and every protest in Beirut to take a part in fighting corruption. These universities include AUB, LAU, USJ, USEK, LU and many more. This is not to forget the spread of the secular groups across Lebanon. A very important example today is MADA network that collects secular clubs and other members from all over Lebanon. In addition to those secular clubs, student council elections in Lebanese universities proved that youth are looking into the political life with a clearer sight. In 2020, political parties were not as present in the university elections. This does not go back to their unwillingness to be available, but to their knowledge that Lebanese students were aware enough of how dangerous and dirty those political parties were and still are. Even the victory of independent candidates was significant in most of the universities. For example, in LAU, 52% of the votes went to the independents in both Beirut and Jbeil campuses. The same scenario was seen in AUB where independents won 65 out of 82 faculty seats and 15 out of 19 student government seats. Even in Rafic Hariri University (RHU), which was named after the former prime minister, independents were able to win 4 out of 9 seats. 

III. Youth in Civic Engagement 

Lebanese youth, especially those who are a part of universities’ clubs and societies are known for their engagement in voluntary activities with NGOs that serve the community. However, this engagement grew very big and fast after Beirut blast. Youth from all over Lebanon went to the streets in order to help the most affected citizens. We saw many donation campaigns and many initiatives for cleaning debris and reconstructing houses that were initiated by youth. This is not to forget that they played a very important role by trying to feed and accommodate the people who totally lost their houses in the blast. They simply handled all what the government was supposed to handle since they knew by heart that their government that killed its people is careless enough. Today, amid the very bad situation Lebanon is passing through, many youth are still refusing to leave or at least are trying to help as much as possible before they leave. These are found in every program that targets youth. One of the big examples are the youth engaged in programs like the Youth Leadership Program (YLP), Riyada for Social Innovation and other similar youth focused programs . These young people, who are drained psychologically and emotionally, are still trying to come up with creative solutions to many problems Lebanon is facing like hunger, poverty, mental issues, pollution and many more. 

IV. Conclusion 

To sum up, Lebanese youth proved to be resilient and conscious much more than the government leading them. From here, they deserve to be called the far light at the end of the tunnel since even if it takes 5, 10 or 100 years, these youth will always stay attached to their spirit of change. 

Cover Picture taken from https://www.dailystar.com.lb/ 

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