BEIRUT: The Cabinet Thursday gave Education Minister Elias Bou Saab the green light to pass all students who had sat school exams, in an attempt to salvage the upcoming school year and ease university admission procedures amid the teachers’ ongoing boycott.
“The Cabinet agreed to task the minister with following up on correcting examinations in an attempt to salvage the coming school year and secure the admission of student into colleges and take all necessary measures to provide students with school certificates,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige told reporters after the end of the government session.
He said the decision was taken after the education minister delivered an overview of the situation in light of teachers' ongoing refusal to correct official examinations.
Their boycott is a protest against the government’s delay in approving the public sector wage hike, which would include a raise for teachers. Lawmakers have been at loggerheads over how to finance the salary scale bill, estimated to cost the treasury some $1.2 billion per year.
The Union Coordination Committee, which has spearheaded protests in support of the salary scale bill, has argued that issuing such school certificates is illegal, but Bou Saab has said such a move is a last resort to help students finish the school year. Students in Lebanon need to pass Grade 12 official exams to enroll at university and Grade 9 exams to enter high school.
“The Cabinet also asked the minister to shut down unlicensed schools and others that do not meet conditions before the start of the school year and to settle the situation of students in such schools and refer the file to the public prosecutor,” Joreige said.
Speaking after the end of the morning session at the Grand Serail, Bou Saab said teachers needed to understand that the wage hike bill would not be approved any time soon and asked them to reconsider their boycott.
“The teachers need to recognize the difficult situation, because approving the salary scale bill is not going to happen in the meantime. Student have deadlines to join colleges and the work of the union cannot hold students hostage like that,” he said. “Some members of the Union Coordination Committee should reconsider their stance and think of ways to win the battle rather than lose it.”
The minister said Speaker Nabih Berri has assured the UCC that the salary scale bill would be the first item on the agenda of any upcoming Parliament session, as soon as lawmakers agree on a formula that balances expenditures and revenues.