BEIRUT — Despite the damages from a great explosion in August, the Vahan Tekeyan School of Beirut is operational and repairs continue to be carried out. However, Covid-19 and the poor economy in Lebanon continue to cause great difficulties, while the political situation remains uncertain and a new government has yet to be formed.
The Tekeyan Center in the Gemmayze district, up until the last few years, has been the most important financial source of support for the Tekeyan School in Beirut. Various businesses rent offices at the Center, which also hosts Armenian cultural activities and Armenian organizations. The economic crisis in Lebanon and political instability affected its operations greatly. Upon this came the Covid-19 crisis, and then the explosion which destroyed much of the building. Finally, most recently a further fall in the value of the Lebanese currency adversely affected its rental income.
Chairman of the TCA Founders Body Hagop Kasarjian said that while fundraising for repair of the Tekeyan School was fairly successful, it was much harder for the Tekeyan Center. He said, “People don’t understand that the revenue from the center is what will support the school in the future.” Some money has been raised through non-Armenian Lebanese sources, but not sufficient to do all of the necessary repairs. The building has been secured from the elements but only some of the sections have been able to be restored. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be necessary to fully repair the building.
The Tekeyan School in Bourj Hammoud, a municipality which is part of Greater Beirut, has received $110,000 of aid through the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada. Many generous donors contributed along with the TCA itself. The Armenian General Benevolent Union has contributed $51,000, of which the majority was in-kind repairs. European and various non-profit Armenian and non-Armenian organizations have provided smaller sums. Most recently, Sam and Silva Simonian promised a major personal donation of $100,000, which helps ensure the operations of the school in 2021. Sam Simonian attended the school as a child and has been an important supporter of the school in the past.
The school is providing free tuition this academic year (2020-21). There are 100 students enrolled at present, with 25 teachers and staff.
According to Berge Arabian, who is in charge of the physical reconstruction, many repairs have been completed, including that of damaged walls on two floors and the roof. In the kindergarten, 14 windows have been repaired along with various internal ones, while 66 destroyed windows of the building have been replaced by new ones. Nearly all wooden doors have been either replaced or repaired along with curtains. Bathrooms are in the process of repair. Air conditioning, outside walls or fences, the vinyl flooring and stage for the third-floor hall, water fountains, an outside iron fence, equipment in the kindergarten play area and vinyl flooring for the kindergarten corridor are among the items remaining to be fixed or replaced, along with the computers, printers and other equipment destroyed in the explosion.