ZAHRANI, Lebanon: The Education Ministry Wednesday expelled the principal of a school in south Lebanon and gave him a lifelong ban from teaching after a video showing him caning students went viral on the Internet.
Video footage posted online Tuesday showed Moussa Daher, principal of the Zahrani branch of Makassed School in the village of Daiat al-Arab, using a stick to beat three students on the soles of their feet as punishment for failing in their studies.
Barefooted, the students are seen being forced to kneel on an office chair as Daher hits them. The students are heard crying and begging for the ordeal to end.
In a news conference Wednesday, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab confirmed that five children had been mistreated by Daher.
“Violence against and beating of the students is prohibited in all its forms, and we will do our best to put an end to such practices,” he said.
He said the maximum penalty would be applied against all teachers who mistreated their students, and urged pupils and parents to inform the ministry of any misconduct they discover by calling the hotline number: 01-772-101.
The decision to dismiss Daher came after the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association called an emergency meeting Tuesday with legal and educational advisers.
The head of the Makassed Association, Mohammad Amine al-Daouk, went to the school Wednesday to investigate the incidents and hold a meeting with relevant parties, including Daher.
“We have been very upset regarding the incident, and we contacted the Education Ministry and extended our apologies as part of Makassed Association to the families of the students ... this is the first time such an incident has happened in five years,” Daouk said following his meeting at the school.
But he also defended Daher, saying that he had been with the association for 30 years and had simply momentarily lost control.
“The punishment he resorted to was for the benefit of the children, unfortunately he lost his temper ... and who among us doesn’t once in a while?” Daouk said. “We have met the parents, and they forgave him, and we learned from them that they had requested harsh punishment for students who received bad marks.”
“We were overwhelmed by the generosity and forgiveness of the parents of the beaten students. They asked us not to take any measure against principal Moussa.”
Regardless, Bou Saab told LBCI Tuesday evening that his ministry had decided to permanently ban Daher from teaching.
“A decision has been made to expel the principal and prevent him from teaching ever again in any of Lebanon’s schools,” he added.
The school closed its doors Wednesday to denounce the principal’s behavior.
Addressing students and staff who gathered outside the school with the Makassed delegation, Daher admitted he had acted poorly and asked for forgiveness.
“I may have committed a mistake but I did not commit an awful act. ... I did what I did to discipline them because I fear for their future. I ask the students to forgive me,” he said.
Daher said that his actions were driven by anger over his students’ “bad grades.”
“I ask the [education] minister and Makassed Association to withdraw the decision to expel me.”
Mashour Ali al-Numeiri, one of the students beaten in the video, told The Daily Star that he understood why his principal had hit him.
“My teacher hit me with a stick because my grades in English were low, and he wants the best for us,” he said. “When I grow up and graduate, I will realize why teacher Moussa has hit me. I thank Mr. Moussa because he hit me. I was in pain but I know this was for my own sake.”
The second student, Ali Mohammad al-Numeiri, echoed his friend’s comments.
“I forgave the principal. I play too much, and I didn’t study my lessons. I promise him that I will study well,” he said. “I confess that I was exaggerating my yelling during the beating so that the teacher would stop, but I wasn’t really in pain.”
A third student, Mohammad Abbas, asked the ministry to reopen the school with Moussa as principal.
“He is keen on educating us well, and the school without principal Moussa is useless.”
Khadijah Tawba, a member of the parents’ committee, said she had three children studying at the school and that none of them had ever complained of being beaten.
She also asked the education minister to revoke his decision, describing Moussa as “a good and well-mannered man – apparently he was suffering immense pressure at work.”