BEIRUT: After reaching a late-night deal with the union to allow official exams to begin later this week, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab pressed lawmakers Wednesday to resolve the wage hike issue to end the teachers’ strike to ensure the tests would be graded on time.
“I did my job, and now politicians must shoulder their responsibility to find a solution to the exam correction [boycott],” Bou Saab told a local television channel. “I’m not going to face off with teachers and I’m not willing to pressure them into correcting the exams because they have rights.”
Bou Saab said he had agreed with the Union Coordination Committee Tuesday to postpone official exams until Friday in a last-ditch deal to avert a major confrontation.
The agreement, which was reached around midnight following a marathon meeting Tuesday between Bou Saab and UCC officials, came after Parliament failed to discuss the wage hike bill during a daytime legislative session, ignoring the UCC’s key demand in exchange for it going ahead with the official school exams.
The issue of whether the exams would be graded remains unresolved pending the bill’s approval, an aspect both Bou Saab and UCC head Hanna Gharib highlighted.
Future MP Ghazi Youssef slammed Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil Wednesday, accusing him of “toying with politics” regarding the controversial bill that has split Lebanon’s politicians.
“We are always ready to sit down with the finance minister, but unfortunately he is toying with politics while evading his responsibility and putting the blame on others,” Youssef told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. The “Future bloc is ready again to look into the details and the figures of the salary scale.”
Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi hailed Bou Saab’s decision to hold the exams, but dubbed the compromise deal “shameful.”
“Holding exams without correcting them or announcing the results means we continue to use students as hostages,” Azzi told Future TV.
“This issue must come to an end,” he said, suggesting that the government hold a “tripartite national dialogue” with employers and trade unions to regulate the right to strike and demonstrate.
Also Wednesday, Bou Saab inspected the exam preparation center on the first floor of the Education Ministry.
He toured the administrative offices, the working rooms and bedrooms of the exams committees, and the isolated test banks. He also checked on the printing room and the braille printer for blind students, the wax sealing process for the envelopes containing the exam questions, and the room with jamming devices, which are overseen by the Lebanese Army, that prevent all types of electronic communication by the committee
Bou Saab also monitored the safety of the windows and the way the steel doors were locked.
Flicking through the books that chronicle the history of the official exams since the early 1920s, he expressed his interest in “this treasure which records the educational history of Lebanon and the figures that lived through that era and established the emergence of Lebanon.”
He confirmed that all logistical, administrative and educational preparations were ready, adding that he was satisfied about the participation of the teachers and the UCC in the process.
Bou Saab stressed that the exams should maintain their “impartiality, accuracy and transparency and their importance in the preparation of generations of Lebanon.”
Separately Wednesday, the Lebanese University announced the resumption of its academic year and exams starting Thursday after its board of deans decided in late May to postpone exams until June in protest at the government’s failure to assign people to replace the council’s acting deans.