Lebanon’s schools shutdown to protest a worsening socio-economic situation
The rapidly evolving prospects of the economic crisis in Lebanon are leaving students uncertain and worried about the future as financial issues have developed between school-owners, parents, the government, and teachers over tuition fees and teachers’ salaries.
During a press conference, caretaker Minister of Education, Tarek al-Majzoub, announced on Friday a weeklong suspension of teaching, considering it “the first step in response to those who have evaded their promises.”
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Majzoub said that he wants to show “the consequences of putting the education sector at the bottom of the priority list,” as he criticized Lebanon’s central bank and the government’s failure to notice the ministry’s requests for financial aid for schoolteachers and families.
“We’ve asked for financial support for parents, students, and schools so that teachers could get their salaries, but all the requests have been met with utter recklessness because unfortunately, in Lebanon, education is not a priority,” Majzoub said.
“At the same time, he also stressed that the academic year must not be wasted. We must not lose our educational body, and vaccination must be its full right,” Majzoub added.
Hilda Khoury, Director of counseling and guidance in Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, told Al Arabiya that it is the Ministry of Education’s responsibility to ensure a safe and positive school environment that provides favorable conditions for learning.
“This is why the Minister of Education suggested that the government should secure elements for the gradual reopening of schools and called for the teachers to be on ‘list of preferred’ to receive COVID-19 vaccinations,” Khoury added.
Khoury also highlighted that if schools were to continue in distance learning, the government should help in making internet connection accessible for everyone.
A source close to the Private School Teachers Union, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al Arabiya English that the minister, especially in a caretaking government, cannot impose the strike on private schools.
“Thus, many won’t be taking any action and will continue teaching regularly next week,” he added.
Kinda Zahzah, a student in Grade 9, told Al Arabiya English that this decision came as a shock to her as she is preparing for her grade 9 official Brevet exams.
“This strike is only hindering us from properly learning all the material we have to study for our official exams, and this is making me anxious,” Zahzah added.
Back in 2020, Majzoub has announced the cancellation of official exams for Baccalaureate [high school] and Brevet [middle school] students after much back-and-forth on the outcome of official exams, taking into consideration all the obstacles that schools have been facing.
“My son is an enthusiastic student whose interest and motivation declined amid remote learning, and now, the strike,” a Lebanese mother whose child is a public-school student told Al Arabiya English.
She explained that her child is starting to express anger and signs of depression, to the point that she is considering pulling him out of remote school and will try to begin home-schooling him.
Considering the vulnerability indices in Lebanon, very few students have the proper conditions for online learning. Several technological constraints are already hindering online learning in Lebanon, with the telecommunications and internet infrastructures remaining inadequate in many areas.
Consequently, weak, or unstable connectivity poses potential setbacks in creating distance-learning strategies. Using video-conferencing applications successfully requires a secure connection and stable bandwidth for both teachers and students; however, this is not always available.
This comes as Lebanon remains in a protracted state of transition to digitization, exacerbated by the unstable political climate. Lebanon ranking 60th on the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) world ranking of internet quality among 100 countries. The study assessed four significant aspects of quality internet, availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness.
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