Lebanon News

UCC defiant in face of growing political pressure

The Union Coordination Committee has reaffirmed its determination to continue the boycott until the new salary scale is passed by Parliament. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee is standing firm on its boycott of grading official exams until Parliament passes a new salary scale, prompting the education minister to announce his decision to issue passing certificates for all students.

“All councils of representatives are upholding the decision to boycott the correction of exams until [our] rights are acknowledged,” UCC chief Hanna Gharib told a press conference after a meeting of the committee Monday.

“The decision to persist in the boycott of correcting the exams was taken unanimously, comprising teachers and administrators."

He also rejected the idea of issuing passing certificates to students in lieu of exam results, insisting that the only settlement to the problem was through the adjustment of the ranks and salary scale.

Gharib urged the lawmakers to head to Parliament and approve the salary scale adjustment as soon as possible “for the sake of students and to preserve the official diploma.”

However, political opposition to the boycott is growing, with the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party Monday joining the call for teachers to grade the official exams, which were held in June after Education Minister Elias Bou Saab reached a compromise with the union to hold the tests but not correct them until the salary scale was passed.

In a brief statement to reporters after meeting a delegation from the UCC, Bou Saab said he would issue the passing certificates if teachers fail to show up to correct the exams.

“In light of the Union Coordination Committee’s insistence on the boycott and the fact that the future of students is the responsibility of the education minister ... I decided to call on the teachers’ correction committees to begin their work Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 for the technical institutes exams,” he said, reading a statement.

“If the heads of the committees inform me that the teachers failed to show up by 12 p.m., the decision to issue passing certificates will go into effect, a decision approved by the Cabinet.”

The Cabinet backed Bou Saab’s alternative plan last week to allow students and schools to finalize enrollment for the quickly approaching school year.

Bou Saab is scheduled to hold a meeting Tuesday morning with the correction committees to draw up the grading criteria. If enough teachers attend Tuesday, “we can start grading exams,” Bou Saab said, “otherwise we will be issuing passing certificates as of Wednesday.”

“The UCC is committing suicide with this move” to maintain the boycott, Bou Saab warned.

The Future Movement rejected the issuing of passing certificates, while appealing to the UCC to retract its decision to boycott the correction of exams.

“In view of the existing political and security situation that hampered holding Parliament sessions in the foreseeable future, and as we utterly oppose granting passing certificates due to its negative effect on national education, we call on the Unions Coordination Committee to renounce its decision to boycott grading of exams,” the party’s educational bureau said in a statement.

Citing concerns for preserving the standard of national education, the PSP, which is led by MP Walid Jumblatt, said the issuing of passing certificates “would deal a painful blow to national education and backfire on the teachers, students and the state alike.”

“As such, the PSP appeals to teachers to end their boycott of grading exams and embark on this national task that affects 108,000 students,” it said in a statement.

However, the party reaffirmed its commitment to the “rightful” demands of the teachers “for a decent, secure and respectful living” through the adjustment of the salary scale.

“By not letting students to become the prisoners of this issue, the UCC would be reinforcing its rightful demands,” the statement said.

“The PSP renews its complete bias on the side of the working class and reasserts its commitment to continue pushing for the adjustment of the salary scale in the shortest time” possible, the statement added.

The PSP statement came a day after teachers from the Amal Movement of Speaker Nabih Berri and Gen. Michel Aoun’s FPM agreed to begin marking exams.





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