BEIRUT: Lebanon's private school teachers announced Monday that they would end their boycott of correcting official exams, while the secondary school teachers sent a contradictory message by announcing their boycott would continue.
"After discussion, the general assembly unanimously voted to continue with all forms of movement and escalation until the salary scale is approved and to go back on the decision to boycott correcting exams,” the Association of Private School Teachers said in a statement.
Shortly following the announcement, the association’s head Nehme Mahfoud told The Daily Star by phone that the decision was made solely by the private school teachers while other groups of the Union Coordination Committee held different stances on the matter.
The association had previously stated that it is committed to the Union Coordination Committee’s position to boycott the correction of the official exams until the approval of the wage hike. However, the statement said that Monday’s decision to reconsider the stand was “for the sake of [safe-guarding] the quality of education in Lebanon... against the non-educational decision by the Education Minister.”
"The decision to issue passing certificates has gone in to effect and students can now enroll in universities” said a statement released by the Education Ministry late Monday.
A source close to the Education Minister told the Daily Star that "the Education Minister stands by his decision to issue passing certificates."
Minister Elias Bou Saab decided Saturday to issue passing certificates, which means that all Grade 9 and 12 students who applied to the official exams will receive passing grades.
The Association’s decision came despite the decision of the Secondary School Teachers League to resume boycott Monday.
The League’s head Hanna Gharib delivered a speech, in which he called for a united UCC decision to defend its existence by not budging on the decision to boycott the correction procedures.
“We should not back down under the pressure. If the minister is trying to burn the card we hold, we should retort by holding on to this card. They cannot issue passing certificates every year,” he said.
To resolve the disagreement inside the UCC and come up with one united decision, all the Committee’s leagues and unions will meet Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Gharib rejected any blame for the minister’s decision, saying that they had opposed the move from the start.
“We are not embarrassed by the issuing of passing certificates. The step was proposed by the minister alone and not by the UCC,” he said.
He praised the united front that the UCC put up to counter the minister’s pressure and called for continuing the battle for teachers’ rights, even if this year’s round might be lost.
“They simply failed to infiltrate our position or break our decision, and the retaliation was issuing the pass[ing grades],” Gharib said.
The teachers’ strike aims at pressuring Parliament to pass a long-awaited salary raise for public sector workers. Political factions in the country are divided on how to finance the hike which has caused a delay in its passing.
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. Passing certificates were issued on several occasions during the 15-year-long civil strife, either because exams could not be held or because rounds of fighting prevented corrections.
Mahfoud had notified The Daily Star Sunday that the teachers might decide to correct the exams, while continuing all the other current methods of protest.
The union leader said he was aware that Education Minister Elias Bou Saab was using passing certificates to pressure the union, but maintained that teachers would take the necessary decisions to protect students.
“We work in education and they work in politics. We are the ones who care about the future of our students,” he said. “If the UCC decides to correct [the exams], and the minister refuses, let him take responsibility for ruining the students’ academic future.”
The UCC said to media outlets that a united and final decision would be released tomorrow.