BEIRUT: Lebanon’s education minister Monday postponed official exams for Grade 9 and Grade 12 students by a week after the UCC threatened to paralyze the exams on June 7 unless the pay hike was approved by Parliament.
“Due to the current situation facing the country and under the difficult psychological situation the students are going through in terms of ‘exams or no exams,’ we cannot but announce the postponement of the official exams,” Elias Bou Saab said at a news conference at the Education Ministry in Beirut.
He said Brevet exams would be postponed from June 7 to June 12 while Baccalaureate exams would be postponed from June 12 to June 16 and June 22 to June 27.
Bou Saab denied that his decision was a rebuke to the Union Coordination Committee, which threatened Monday that the entire government as well as official school exams would be in total paralysis starting June 7 if a controversial salary raise were not endorsed.
“We will continue to support the rightful demands of the UCC, all their demands,” he said. “However, the interest of students and official exams remain a supreme national interest that we cannot abandon.”
Bou Saab said he was considering proposing a “compromise” with teachers receiving a salary raise under an installment plan.
“If we reach a solution, we will present the UCC with a written proposal and wait for a response," he told reporters.
“I am against postponement. We have postponed [exams] once and we cannot keep [students] hostage,” Bou Saab said in response to a question.
His announcement came only hours after the head of the Union Coordination Committee, Hanna Gharib, threatened to paralyze the government.
“The entire government will be paralyzed June 7, including official exams, if we are not given our rights,” Gharib warned during a UCC sit-in outside a public secondary school in the Beirut neighborhood of Corniche Mazraa.
Addressing officials who have threatened to annul the Grade 9 official exams, Gharib said: “The official Brevet certificate is a red line it is part of national sovereignty.”
He said the UCC was committed to “open communication” to ensure both the teachers’ and students’ rights.
“We want the pay hike June 10,” Gharib warned in reference to a legislative session scheduled to discuss a modified salary scale draft law for civil servants and public sector teachers.
Meanwhile, the head of the private school teachers union, Nehme Mahfoud, proposed an interim solution for the contentious wage hike.
The proposal calls on Parliament to endorse cost-of-living raises as well as an “advance grant” for the new salary scale, while lawmakers take their time to study the figures.