Flunked the test

File - Education Minister Elias Bou Saab is seen at the Parliament in Beirut, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

The ongoing tug-of-war between Lebanon’s education minister and its teachers union would never stand up in a classroom.

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and the Union Coordination Committee have issued deadline after deadline, and ultimatum after ultimatum, in their bid to see a new salary scale for teachers and get this year’s examinations graded.

However, each deadline comes and goes and a new “extension” is granted in order to solve the impasse. If a student asks for this many extensions on a given assignment, he or she eventually fails the class – but similar performance standards don’t apply to Lebanon’s politicians and union leaders.

The future plans of tens of thousands of students are being held hostage because of this long-running saga. All sides agree that the demands are legitimate, but the problem is one of financing. Freeing up the needed funds by ending state corruption is a lovely idea, but the simple fact is that another deadline – the beginning of the new school year – is fast approaching, and the only body that can endorse the pay rise is Parliament, whose next scheduled session is in mid-September.

The public is subjected to a monotonous series of meetings, news conferences, statements and cheap grandstanding by politicians anxious to offer their views on a topic while being completely impotent when it comes to a solution.

The latest proposal touted by Bou Saab, issuing everyone a passing grade, is as desperate as the unions’ stance that a solution to the issue can be found in time for next month, when schools and universities open.

With so many deadlines having come and gone, it’s clear who deserves a failing grade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2014, on page 7.




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