ZAHRANI, Lebanon: The principal of a school in south Lebanon has been sacked and given a lifelong ban from teaching after a video showing him caning students went viral on the Internet Tuesday.
Video footage posted on the net showed Moussa Daher, the principal of the Zahrani branch of Makassed School, caning a number of students for failing in their studies.
Barefooted, the students were forced to kneel on an office chair as Daher violently struck the soles of their feet. The students cried and begged for the ordeal to end.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said Wednesday five children had been mistreated by Daher, with only three appearing in the video that went viral.
The decision to dismiss the principal came following an emergency meeting called for by the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association that included legal and educational advisors.
The participants at the meeting also decided to personally press charges against the teacher who “offended the students’ dignity.”
Bou Saab told LBCI Tuesday evening that his ministry decided to permanently ban Daher from teaching.
“A decision has been taken to expel the principal and prevent him from teaching ever again in any of Lebanon’s schools,” he added.
The Makased School branch where the incident took place closed its doors Wednesday to denounce the teacher’s behavior.
Addressing students and staff outside the school, Daher admitted he had acted wrongfully, asking for forgiveness and that the ban be reversed.
“I ask the students to forgive me. I may have committed a mistake but I did not commit an awful act,” he said outside the school, where a visiting delegation from the Makassed Association was also present.
Daher said his actions were driven by anger over his student’s “bad grades.”
“I did what I did to discipline them [students] because I fear for their future,” he said.
“I ask the [education] minister and Makassed Association to withdraw the decision to expel me.”
Ahmad Ali Nmeiri, one of the students who appeared in the video footage, said he had forgiven the principal and said he had feigned being in pain during the punishment.
“I feel ashamed because I put the principal’s reputation at stake. I was screaming without feeling any pain while he caned me,” he said.
“I got 7 out of 30 in English and that is why Mr. Moussa got angry,” he added.
“We want Mr. Moussa to open the school doors now,” the student said.
Amine Daouq, the head of the Makassed Association who was a member of the visiting delegation to the school, said Daher’s conduct was unacceptable.
He also expressed surprise over requests from parents and teachers that Daher remain at the school.
“The staff at school as well as students and their parents said they … wanted [Daher] to remain at his post. They said the conduct came during a diabolic hour,” he said, adding that he would raise the demands to the Makassed Association.
However, Bou Saab said in a news conference later Wednesday that the Ministry would not back down from its decision.
“The parents informed us that Daher has a lot of favors in the town and that he might have acted this way because they asked him to be firm with their children … but this does not justify what he did and he has to pay for his mistakes,” the minister said.
Bou Saab said the mistreatment of students in Lebanese schools was not uncommon and vowed to take strict measures to end the practice.
“What happened at the Makassed school is happening in other Lebanese schools,” he said.
“The Ministry cannot accept this situation to go on and we will cooperate with schools and resort to the law to end such a phenomenon,” he added.
Bou Saab also said that he would task the Central Inspection Bureau to follow up on the cases of school violence.
He also asked schools to cooperate with the state, warning of consequences should they fail to do so.
Anyone wishing to report a suspected case of abuse at school can contact the hot line 01-772101, Bou Saab said. He added that callers unable to get through to the hotline operators could contact his office at the ministry at 01-799766.