BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman condemned Thursday an alleged child abuse incident in a north Lebanon school, a statement from his office said.
Sleiman reportedly called the mother of the child who was allegedly beaten at the direction of his teacher in a public school in Mina, Tripoli.
Sleiman tasked caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab with following up on the issue, the statement said.
Elias Kamil Khoury, a sixth grade student, said that he had been abused by his teacher, Ugena Khritso, because he was talking during class with another student.
“I was sitting in class talking to my classmates and the teacher saw me and she assigned me a punishment that I didn’t do,” Elias told The Daily Star. “So she made me stand in front of the board and invited my classmates to slap me with their hands on the back of my neck, one after the other. I was hit 26 times.”
According to Eias, Khritso threatened her students that they would receive the same punishment if they did not beat their classmate.
After returning home, the child said that he was too scared to tell his family members what had happened, but his mother saw the bruises on his neck.
“I noticed after he came back from school that his neck had marks that Elias was trying to hide with his shirt collar, and when I asked him to show me he refused, saying he [was injured while] playing with his friends,” said Mary, Elias’ mother.
Finally he relented and told her what happened, she said.
She filed a complaint with Education Ministry after she got a medical report proving her son was abused.
However, she told The Daily Star that she would now withdraw the complaint as the school administration called her and apologized.
“I do not wish to waste his academic year, but I hope this does not happen to any child ever again,” she said.
For his part, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour followed up on the case with Diab and called for launching a probe into the incident.
“An investigation [by the Education Ministry] into the case of the child who was beaten in one of the public schools in Tripoli should be launched to discover what really happened and [authorities should] take the necessary measures against those proved guilty of perpetrating or inciting physical abuse,” he said.
He said the case was a “top priority because children have the right to get the protection they need, especially in schools, which are supposed to be a safe environment for our kids.”
Education sources said the teacher was under an investigation that involved the testimony of students and school management. The results of the investigation will be sent to the education minister, and the teacher was suspended for three days pending the results of the probe.