BEIRUT: Education Minister Elias Bou Saab Friday gave protesting teachers one last chance to grade official examinations or risk losing a key negotiating card, with the issuance of certificates passing all students.
At a news conference after meeting members of the Union Coordination Committee, Bou Saab said he would give the order to issue the passing certificates and call for the grading committee to begin correcting exams by Monday.
“I issued a decision to print certificates for all students who took the official exams, and printing would begin next week ... the decision would go into effect Monday and would take the General Directorate [of Education] 24 hours to print [certificates],” Bou Saab told reporters.
He said the decision would coincide with a call by the Education Ministry to all grading committees to begin correcting exams Monday, pressuring teachers to back down from their boycott.
The UCC has been rallying for the public sector wage hike for three years now, calling for a 121 percent increase in salaries for civil servants and teachers, as well as the other benefits.
Parliament has failed to pass the pay raise due to disagreement and lack of quorum, and recent comments by lawmakers from all parties confirmed that the draft law would not be passed anytime soon.
MPs are at a deadlock over means to finance the wage hike, with some demanding the draft law establishes a balance between expenditure and revenue.
Bou Saab said the decision to issue passing certificates was not easy but a last resort to salvage the school year for students.
“I know that this is not the best decision for the educational path of students but I have exhausted all other options,” he said.
“But it is now clear that Parliament will not convene to legislate, at least not in the near future,” the minister said.
He also noted that several parties, including the Future Movement, Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, supported his decision to issue the certificates, saying his call for teachers to begin corrections came at the request of the Kataeb Party.
Although the UCC has been adamant on continuing their boycott, reports said Friday that teachers could back down on their demands and correct the state exams.
Earlier this week, the Cabinet backed Bou Saab’s decision to issue the certificates, tasking the minister to take all necessary measures to help students in their admission to colleges and high schools. Bou Saab will hold one final meeting with a UCC delegation Monday.
Should teachers begin correcting exams Monday, the decision to issue the certificates would be canceled.
Taking a stab at the teachers, Bou Saab said: “What if the Lebanese Army said it would not go into Arsal and fight the militants in protest of the delay to approve the salary scale?”
The Army clashed with Islamist militants after they took over the northeastern border town of Arsal last weekend. The fighters withdrew from Arsal days later after a cease-fire was brokered.