BEIRUT: Education Minister Elias Bou Saab Sunday called on Parliament to pass the wage hike bill, and on Lebanese University’s contract-professors to keep holding officials exams so students can graduate.
“[I call on parliamentary blocs to] grant the rights of the professors by enacting the salary scale,” Bou Saab said according to the National News Agency.
“The students’ interest is a top national interest that is worth the collaboration of everyone,” he added.
Bou Saab called on the Cabinet to approve the draft law related to contract-based professors, and resolve the issue of appointments at the Lebanese University.
Contracts professors had boycotted the final exams after the Cabinet's passivity over their demands for fulltime positions.
LU professors had also asked the government to assign deans to the university’s council to replace acting deans serving since 2004. The absence of appointed deans had led the council to lose its powers, and had placed the university under the rule of LU president and education minister.
Bou Saab also called on contract professors to freeze their strike and allow students to continue taking the exams.
“[Let us] not waste the students’ chances especially as they had already started taking the exams and were disappointed by the Cabinet’s stand toward the two issues,” he said.
Spokesperson for the contract professors Mirvat Ballout told The Daily Star that a deal had been reached between the minister the professors on June 12, in which the professors agreed to hold exams. On the other hand, they kept their right to boycott grading until demands were met by the Cabinet.
The deal was disrupted after the Cabinet failed to pass the draft law due to political disagreements, Ballout added.
Ballout confirmed that the professors were holding an open strike until their demands are realized, and would not submit test results till then.
"Seventy-four thousand students are waiting for the Cabinet to make these two decisions," she said. "But even if it will go on till next year, we will not submit any grades before deans are assigned and professors are provided with full-time contracts.
Even though they hold doctorate degrees and have been teaching at the university for years, contract professors only earn their salaries every two years, and are not entitled to the National Social Security Fund.
The minister thanked “the political, security, military and educational” parties that contributed to the holding of grade 9 and 12 official exams.
He also mentioned lauded the Union Coordination Committee, that “demonstrated its concern over the students’ interest by [accepting to] complete the exams.”
He said that the exam papers were being kept in safe storage under the protection of the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army. The results of the exams will be announced after the wage hike was approved by Parliament, he explained.
The official exams had been postponed due to a strike by the UCC, with which most school teachers are affiliated. They resumed only after a deal between the UCC and the ministry was reached in which grading would not occur before Parliament passes the wage-scale increase.