BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Education Minister Elias Bou Saab decided Saturday to issue passing certificates to thousands of students who took official exams, after efforts failed to convince teachers to back down on their boycott of correcting the tests.
“[I decided] to give those who took the exams a certificate that would allow their entry into colleges,” Bou Saab told reporters at a news conference, saying such a move was his last resort to safeguard the school year.
Lebanon has not had to resort to issuing passing certificates in lieu of grading the exams since the end of the Civil War in 1990.
“The identification cards students used to enter exam rooms and take the tests will be used as an affidavit as proof of completion,” he said, adding that an additional official certificate would be issued at a later stage.
“To the students, I say you have now passed your exams. Congratulations, but I had hoped the exams would be corrected ... [but] your teachers and the unions could not help you in correcting your exams.”
Minutes before Bou Saab’s news conference, the Union Coordination Committee, which represents civil servants and teachers, said it remained adamant on boycotting until the salary scale draft law was approved by Parliament.
Political parties have struggled to pass the draft law that would boost the salaries of civil servants and teachers, as they remain deadlocked over means to finance the bill estimated to cost the treasury some $1.2 billion a year.
Bou Saab said he was not willing to leave the future of 148,000 students hanging in the balance or remain hostage to the demands of their teachers.
“I tried last Tuesday to have the teachers come out as victorious and postpone a decision to issue passing certificates approved by the minister and Cabinet ... but I was misunderstood because they became more stubborn,” he said.
Earlier this week, Bou Saab postponed issuing the certificates at the request of the UCC in order to pave the way for more efforts to reach a solution to the standoff. His decision followed protests organized by the union to pressure Parliament to pass the law.
Speaker Nabih Berri held talks Saturday morning with Future MP Bahia Hariri, a former education minister, on the issue of the salary scale.
Bou Saab said the victory belonged to political differences.
“The victory today was for political difference because the UCC is the biggest loser in the decision it took today,” he said.
“I have clarified to the UCC that the problem with passing the salary scale was merely political, something that is disrupting the whole country and had nothing to do with the draft law itself.”
“The teachers wanted to save face rather than safeguard the official school certificates.”
With Parliament unable to convene due to boycotts by Christian lawmakers and some other political parties, Bou Saab said the legislative branch had no chance of convening soon, prompting him to make the “hard choice.”
Immediately after Bou Saab’s remarks, UCC head Hanna Gharib, who has been at the forefront of the wage hike battle, said the minister was to blame, not teachers.