BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee might end its strike and start grading official exams, the head of the Association of Private School Teachers told The Daily Star Sunday, adding that the union would do what was best for students.
“We work in education and they work in politics. We are the ones who care about the future of our students,” Nehmeh Mahfoud said.
The union leader said he was aware that Education Minister Elias Bou Saab was using passing certificates to pressure the union. But “with the issuance of the certificates, the UCC is reconsidering what is best for the students,” and “might consider the correction of official exams,” Mahfoud said.
Mahfoud said that the UCC would hold general assembly meetings Monday and Tuesday to make a decision about the correction of the exams.
“If the UCC decides to correct, and the minister refuses, let him take responsibility for ruining the students’ academic future,” he said.
Bou Saab announced Saturday that he decided to issue passing certificates to tens of thousands of students who took official exams, after efforts failed to convince teachers to back down on their boycott of correcting the tests.
“To the students, I say you have now passed your exams. Congratulations, but I had hoped the exams would be corrected ... [although] your teachers and the unions could not help you in correcting your exams,” he said.
The teachers’ strike aims at pressuring Parliament to pass a long-awaited salary raise for public sector workers. But political factions in the country are divided on how to finance the hike.
Bou Saab said that there was a precedent to issuing passing certificates. 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.
“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,” Bou Saab said.
Speaker Nabih Berri discussed the salary raise deadlock Saturday morning with Future MP Bahia Hariri, who heads Parliament’s Education Committee.
Berri will endorse the decision to issue passing certificates in Parliament on the basis of a similar decision issued during the Civil War in 1987 and 1988, Bou Saab said in separate remarks.
The UCC opposed Bou Saab’s decision to issue passing certificates to all students who took the exams, saying that “there is not fairness or achievement when the best student and the worst are matched.”
“The solution does not come by running away from the core problem and adding another problem like the issuance of passing certificates,” Mahfoud said in a UCC news conference Saturday.
The UCC leader said that the union would definitely confront plans to extend Parliament’s mandate, not disclosing the specific method in which it would do so.
“We will not allow lawmakers to extend Parliament’s mandate before resolving the salary scale,” he added, in reference to increasing signs that Parliament would extend its term.
“Parliament has already extended its mandate once without producing anything new, so if they convene in a session to extend their mandate without resolving the wage hike problem, we will not let them exit the premise before addressing this issue,” Mahfoud warned.