Deadly clashes in Lebanon strain education system

Widespread panic in schools

Videos and photos circulating on social media showed terrified schoolchildren hiding in hallways and under tables to take cover from gunfire. There were scenes of panic in the schools: traumatized students, tearful teachers, distraught parents trying to take their children away. Classes were quickly stopped, and children brought home by school buses or parents, except in areas where clashes were taking place.

In the Notre-Dame de Nazareth school, the administration locked the children inside the walls and tried to divert their attention from what was happening outside. The teachers did their best to protect the mental health of the children, although some staff were also panicked.

As residents of affected areas demanded to be evacuated and a civilian was killed in her home by a stray bullet, children remained trapped in schools for hours. Four projectiles fell near the private school Collège Notre Dame des Frères–Furn el Chebbak. Some observers have compared the situation to the Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990.

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The panic spread to other parts of Lebanon, including the Bekaa Valley, where several schools interrupted classes and asked parents to pick up their children as soon as possible.

Most schools have decided not to open their doors on Friday, fearing the situation will get worse. The Ministry of Education has announced that the decision to close or not rests with each school individually.

Some higher education institutions, including the American University of Beirut, have also chosen to close.