BEIRUT: A preparatoryschool in Beirut is under threat of closing as its administrative partners struggle to resolve a family dispute that has led to unpaid wages and strikes, according to the head of an affiliated body.
Omar Mousharafieh, head of the parents’ committee at the Lebanese Preparatory School, told The Daily Star that members of the Sayegh family and the Khalaf family have been involved in an intense standoff for a year and a half, one that has escalated since the school year started.
“There is a possibility that the school might close; this is what the dispute could eventually lead to,” he said.
The private school, located in the Beirut southern suburb of Ghobeiri, was founded by Nelly Sayegh in 1965, and her son Percy Sayegh is currently its director, with other members of the family responsible for academic-related matters. The Khalaf family has been handling the school’s budget and the salaries of its employees.
According to Mousharafieh, several Sayeghs that are employedat the school have not received their full wages for over eight months because of the dispute, nor have those who work with them in a supportive role.
Both families are currently involved in a lawsuit over the wage issue, he said.
Mousharafieh declined to go into detail about the nature of the dispute.
Over 600 Lebanese and multinational students are currently enrolled at the school, which employs more than 60 teachers.
The Daily Star was not able to reach employees of the school Thursday, as schools across the country were closed due to poor weather.
Mousharafieh released a statement Tuesday imploring caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab to save the school so the students could complete their academic year.
“The students and their families have been suffering for over a year and a half because of the problems between the school’s partners,” Mousharafieh said.
He said the tensions arising from the legal dispute between the Sayeghs and the Khalafs were now being felt in the classroom, and risked depriving students from getting the most out of their school time.
The situation promptedaffected school staff to hold a strike Tuesday to protest the lack of wages. They planned to do the same Wednesday, but could not after weather closed the school.
“I can’t do any more if [the dispute] doesn’t get solved,” Mousharafieh said. “I will have to take my son and move him [to another school].”
He said that the school would likely close down if a solution wasn’t found, as without all its staff it could not stay open.
“If the school closes in the middle of the year, this is a big problem,” Mousharafieh added.
“They [the partners] would have to pay all of the employees their entire salaries [covering the rest of the year]. That’s more than half a million dollars.”