BEIRUT: Public school teachers and students are annoyed at the Education Ministry’s decision to institute a six school day week to make up for lost class time after the monthlong strike.
As students begin their new, expanded schedule next week, some teachers are pointing out that their schedules will be disrupted, since they have teaching obligations at other schools on the weekend, while the month of Ramadan will also complicate things.
Currently, some public schools are off on Friday and Sunday, while others close Saturday and Sunday.
Hassan Ajouz, an English teacher at a public school in Beirut, said the ministry’s decision was not “well-assessed.” He said that according to the ministry’s decision, he should teach grade 9 students Friday, a day they are supposed to be off.
“I teach grade 9 students, but at the same time I am a contract teacher at a vocational school. I teach at there every Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then I attend Friday prayers,” he said. “I don’t know how this is going to work and whether I should come [to teach the grade 9 students] after Friday prayers,” he said.
The Education Ministry announced Thursday that official exams for grade 9 students would start June 22.
Grade 12 students from the life sciences and general sciences sections will take their official exams starting June 27, while students from the economics, sociology, literature and humanities sections are set to begin their official exams starting July 3.
Students in the country have to pass grade 9 official exams in order to enroll in high school, and the grade 12 students have to pass official tests to qualify for university.
Exam results will be announced between July 25 and 30, starting with grade 12 general sciences and life sciences sections first.
Ajouz complained that by the time the teachers start grading the exams, the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins July 8, would have started.
“Students won’t face a problem, as they finish exams just before Ramadan begins. However, we will be correcting exams for two weeks while fasting,” Ajouz said.
Echoing Ajouz, Amal Saab, a contract teacher at three public schools in Beirut, said the Education Ministry’s decision was “hasty.”
“Most teachers teach at other schools Friday and Saturday, and there are some teachers that offer private lessons in the afternoon,” she said.
“I teach at a secondary school Friday and I will not be able to teach at the middle school I work for on this same day,” Saab added. “If the secondary school asks me to teach Saturday, I can’t do so, because I will have to teach at the middle school.”
“These measures create problems between teachers and school administrations. I won’t teach on Friday; I wont’ abide by this new policy,” she vowed.
Saab said students oppose this new system as well: “Some of them are saying that they want to perform Friday prayers and would not be able to come to class.”
Saab said the ministry should reconsider its policy to make up for the school days lost as a result of the strike.
“Why don’t they consider the option of teachers giving extra sessions in the afternoon instead of making us teach for a sixth day?” she proposed.
Last week, teachers and public sector employees ended a one-month strike after the government referred a long-awaited salary raise for the public sector to Parliament. The move came one day before caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his resignation.
Rima Bast, a grade 12 student at Qob Elias Public High School in the Bekaa Valley, argued that students were being treated as the scapegoats of the strike.
“Our teachers went on strike ... but many of them were still teaching at private schools,” she said, wondering how a principled teacher could do so.
“Now our teachers say they cannot teach us on the sixth day of the week because they have to teach at private schools,” she added. “It is very annoying that a student at a public school wishes that he or she went to a private school instead.”
While acknowledging that six school days per week is exhausting, Bast said there was no other choice for students who want to make up for lost class material as a result of the strike. “This is better than having to study during summer.”
Rayan Qattan, Bast’s classmate, agreed: “This is a necessary measure, so that we finish all the required material.”
However, Qattan complained that the reading period was not enough for grade 12 students to prepare for officials exams. Grade 12 students at public schools will start taking their final exams May 27. They are to sit for official exams starting June 27.
But Zeinab Fawwaz, a grade 9 student at a public school in Beirut, said she has no problem having even seven school days per week: “What is important is that we finish the required material and we pass the exams. ... The end result is what concerns me.”