BEIRUT: A few hundred teachers from all over Lebanon gathered at Riad al-Solh Square Wednesday afternoon to protest pressing issues plaguing the education community.
The teachers told The Daily Star they were calling for health benefits, an end to rolling contracts and the granting of a transportation allowance.
A female teacher in the crowd asserted that it was time for “the government to pay attention to us” and that “it’s time for it to realize that we are on this land and we are Lebanese.”
Many teachers feel ignored by the state.
A man holding up one end of a banner that called for the repeal of the "open examination" system, which denies health and other benefits to teachers who do not have full-time contracts and leaves them vulnerable to immediate replacement, said, “I have nothing against the police, but why should a high-school graduate make as much as a university graduate who is teaching school?"
His words were echoed by a woman standing nearby, who added, “We are educating generations who are going on to work and we haven’t been given permanent status."
She went on to say, “In the time that has passed since many of us started working we still haven’t gotten permanent status while some people have received citizenship! If they are not going to provide us with our full rights they could at least cover our health insurance.”
Low salaries and delays in payment also came in for criticism. Many teachers said they were demonstrating against the fact that they had not been paid in months. “Some teachers have gone seven months without pay and seven months ago we took our salaries from last year,” said Zahra, a teacher from Sidon who is living and working in Beirut.
“Let’s see if the Minister of Education can live one month without a salary,” another woman said, interrupting the interview, “I bet he’d commit suicide!”