BEIRUT: Days before their scheduled start date, students who transferred from schools in Syria and enrolled in Lebanese public schools have yet to be notified whether they are permitted to sit for official exams.
Though the Education Ministry has previously issued a decree allowing Syrians and Lebanese previously attending school in Syria to take the official exams, these students have not received confirmation that they are registered to take the crucial test.
According to Kamel Kazbar, head of the Union of Relief Organizations in Lebanon, which campaigns for refugees, ambiguity over their participation in this year’s examinations was caused by a misunderstanding between the Education Ministry and the Cabinet earlier this year.
Based on the Cabinet’s recommendation, the ministry announced that students coming from Syria had the right to take the official exams, but was unclear whether the policy allowed Syrians without proper documents, such as IDs, to take the test.
Lebanon hosts over 1 million registered Syrian refugees, many of whom fled their homes without their belongings, including proof of identity and other important documents.
To clarify matters, the Education Ministry proposed a decree allowing students coming from Syria – including refugees – to sit for the exam even if they were unable o produce official documents. The proposal was adopted by the Cabinet on April 24, and also stated that Lebanese who pursued one or more years of study in Syria but could not provide equivalency documents, could still partake in the exams.
With the approval of the new decree, legal ambiguities over the issue of documents were ostensibly resolved, but students from Syria are still in the dark about their participation in this year’s exams, said Kazbar.
“If the Cabinet agreed to allow them [to take the exams], why hasn’t the Education Ministry informed them they are permitted yet? Why haven’t students been notified about their right to attend exams?”
The students must also present candidacy certificates at the exam hall before taking the test, a bureaucratic obstacle that will be impossible for many, as the certificates have yet to be processed.
“The exams will be held next Thursday,” Kazbar said referring to the Grade 9 exams, “but the administration is on strike Monday and Tuesday, so will they have enough time Wednesday to print the candidacy certificates?”
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star could not reach Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, and ministry adviser Albert Chamoun declined to comment.
Kazbar said he had contacted the relevant United Nations agencies who promised to act on the issue. “But it is too late,” he said.
Even if students coming from Syria are able to take the exams, they won’t be able to access the results until they can present necessary paperwork, according to the Cabinet’s decision.
For Save the Children’s Media Advisor Marion McKeone, the issue signals how unclear and inconsistent educational regulations are for Syrian refugee children in particular. The solution, she said, requires a regional and not just a Lebanese effort.
“We would like to see the international community and regional governments agree on consistent guidelines,” she added.