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Brighter light and higher hopes: Solar energy systems keep technical schools running in Lebanon

The ILO provided a number of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) schools with solar systems in Lebanon to keep their doors open and trained their students on solar panel installation and maintenance to build their skills and help them find job opportunities amid the country’s multifaceted crisis.

Feature | 10 January 2023

Tripoli, LEBANON – A chronic shortage of state-supplied energy, and the restrictively high costs of privately-sourced electricity generators has seen the demand for solar power in the country soaring in recent years for both domestic and commercial use.

Such an energy switch is particularly needed across local schools and, especially technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutes, where electricity is key to conducting practical classes and training for thousands of students.

“I need electricity for the computer and the mechanical labs,” says Hassan Hlehel, Director and trainer at the Abou Samra IPNET School in northern Lebanon. “I have a total of 860 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian students, 60 per cent of whom are young women. Using solar energy is now the only way to activate the basic services needed to run the school.”
Students listens to the assembly instructions given by one of the ILO project engineers in Tripoli ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

In response to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s call for supporting the mechanical skills training sector in Lebanon, the ILO and its partners have provided six TVET schools in Lebanon with solar energy systems, and delivered to select students a training programme on panel installation and maintenance.

“Through providing solar energy systems, we were able to sustain the education of more than 4,200 female and male students who are now in the position of continuing their mechanical courses and training,” says Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Advisor for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “Through the initiative, we also have directly trained over 100 apprentices on panel installation and their maintenance.”

Trainees acquired skills urgently needed to access the local labour market.
Students wear OSH gear and equipment before installing solar panels on the roof of one of the TVET schools in northern Lebanon ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

Ibrahim Khaled Yassouf is a 19-year-old student and project apprentice from Syria. He says he worked hard during the training sessions to learn as much as he could about renewable energy, and he hopes the training will equip him with the necessary skills to work in the sector.

“I entered the renewable energy sector because it offers many job opportunities,” Yassouf says. “A large number of people are working with solar energy systems these days, and I want to be one of them even after this training programme is over.”

Schools participating in the project were selected based on specific assessments, explains Tareq Alam, a project manager for The Safadi Foundation. The Lebanese organization is partnering with the ILO on the project and is focused on empowering local, vulnerable communities, especially women and youth.
A trainee helps one of his colleagues wear safety equipment in Tripoli ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

“The Safadi Foundation, in cooperation with the ILO and the Education Ministry, conducted specific evaluations in a number of schools in Lebanon’s north and in the Beqaa Valley and selected the institutes based on their needs concerning the lack and cost of energy,” says Alam.

Majd Bassem Abdel Fattah, 20, is one of the project trainees and a former student of the Abou Samra IPNET institute. Through his studies, he has earned a bachelor's degree in electrical technology. Today, he returned to his school, where he and more than a dozen other young trainees are set to install solar panels on its roof.

“The difficulties we faced here as students were huge and were caused by the lack of electricity, mostly for the computers and machines we were working and studying on,” he says. “Now, with the solar energy, hopefully, the situation will improve.”
Trainees are seen assembling a solar panel system on the roof of a TVET school in Lebanon  ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

A few kilometres away, in Tripoli’s Beddawi Technical School, a 40-ampere solar energy system installed through the ILO’s initiative, is now giving energy in classrooms and labs.

“Tripoli is the poorest area in Lebanon,” says Hassan Ghamrawi, Beddawi Technical School director and one of the project’s trainers. “Solar energy has enabled us to turn on the basic instruments we use to carry on with our teaching.”

“Through the project, we trained a total of 18 young people on panel installation and their maintenance, Ghamrawi adds
A student works on the frame that will hold the solar panels to be installed on the roof of their school in northern Lebanon ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

Trainee Ayman Rabah Al-Hayek, 22, is one of these trainees. As he walks past the solar panels he helped install with his colleagues on the roof of Beddawi Technical School, he smiles as he explains his journey.

“Learning how to transfer the electricity from the solar inverter to the building’s grid was very hard, as well as understanding how to programme the inverter,” Al-Hayek says “Still, it was worth it, and a major achievement is that we now have a better chance at securing new job opportunities. This is very important, considering the huge crisis our country is facing.”

The project is funded by the PROSPECTS Programme , a global partnership supported by the Government of the Netherlands and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
A trainer shows how the power generated from the newly installed solar system integrates with the school's main electricity grid ©ILO/Elisa Oddone