| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Aoun meets delegation from the Union of Private Educational Institutions: Addressing educational situation has become urgent necessity

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, indicated that “Addressing the educational situation at the beginning of the school year has become an urgent necessity, in light of the current difficult circumstances which Lebanon is witnessing, which have negatively impacted the educational situation as happened in other sectors.”

“This necessitates a realistic and comprehensive treatment which takes into account the various components of the educational body, i.e. educational institutions, bodies and parent committees, as well as the role of the Education Ministry in this field” President Aoun said.

In addition, the President pointed out that he intends to call for an emergency conference devoted to address the educational situation to help start the school year and provide the auxiliary factors for this issue.

Stances of the President came while meeting a delegation of the Federation of Private Educational Institutions in Lebanon, today at the Presidential Palace.

The delegation included the coordinator of the Federation, Father Youssef Nasr, Secretary-General of Catholic Schools, and: Sheikh Sami Abou Al-Mouna (Irfan Schools), Nizar Gharib (Amal Educational Institutions Schools), Hajj Mahmoud Abdullah (Al-Mahdi Schools), Alice Wazir (Evangelical Schools), Bella Daoun Khoury (Orthodox Schools), Ibrahim Alaa Al-Din (Al-Mabarrat Schools), Youssef Hamza (Orphan’s House, and Suhair Al-Zein (Maqased Schools).

During the meeting, Father Nasr briefed the President about a summary of the study prepared by the Federation of private Educational Institutions on the situation of these schools and the impact of the deterioration of the Lira exchange rate against the US Dollar, on the cost of educating school students, knowing that teachers and parents of the educated also suffer from this situation.

The Study also indicated that the average cost of educating one student for year 2021-2022, after correcting the cost of operating expenses directly related to the dollar exchange rate, in the actual market is corrected and an increase in salaries and wages equivalent to 30% is given without any modification in the grants and aid section, the average becomes 9.3 million pounds.

In addition, Father Nasr pointed out that the cost of buying textbooks has increased five times compared to the cost in September 2019, in addition to the cost of school transportation, and the teacher’s salary is now not enough to cover his basic needs.

Afterwards, several members spoke, and submitted a memorandum in which they wished the President to seek with donors and stakeholders to allocate a percentage of the donations which will reach Lebanon to the educational sector with the aim of supporting parents, teachers and schools, by providing an amount of 200$ for each student who is allowed to maintain the average school fee at its current value, and the issuance of a fuel card for schools administration and teachers.

For his part, the President discussed proposals with members of the delegation and stressed the necessity of holding an education conference to discuss all the points which were raised by the delegation.

After the meeting, Father Nasr made the following statement:

“We are in September, and schools are just around the corner. There are huge challenges hindering the start of the academic year. Therefore, we visited Baabda Palace and met with His Excellency the President. We were accompanied by the Federation of Private Educational Institutions also.

We addressed the problems and challenges which hinder the start of the academic year, and we presented a study showing high educational costs in private educational institutions. Premiums have increased from an average of 4 and half million to above 9 million Lebanese Pounds, which constitutes a very high cost for parents.

As a result of our meeting with the President, we agreed to hold an emergency educational conference in coordination with the Education Minister. The conference will also include all ministries concerned with educational affairs to help facilitate the start of the school year and secure all the necessary supplies so that we can open all schools. This is a necessity since students have been far from schools for the 3rd year in a row, and the matter cannot continue like this. We need to open our schools so that normal life can return.

This conference will include all components of the educational family, and we call on all institutions, schools and committees to participate in order to address all issues together, under the auspices of the Presidential Palace, and His Excellency President Aoun.

All educational issues in Lebanon will be addressed to facilitate finding solutions”.

Questions & Answers:

In response to a question, Father Nasr emphasized that “We strive to remove all obstacles so that we can open the doors of our schools. We encourage the opening of the schools, but with the dissolution of all existing contracts, including teachers’ salaries and the high operating costs of the school, all of these matters are complicated and we must find solutions to them in order for the school to open its doors.

In response to a question about some schools raising premiums, Father Nasr answered “There may be some educational institutions that are able to withstand this increase, but not all of Lebanon’s schools are able to do so in light of the current economic hardship that parents are experiencing. The solution is the support of the state for the educational sector”.

Regarding the alternative, if schools do not open their doors this month, Father Nasr said: “We insist, in one word, as a union, on opening the doors of schools”.

In addition, Father Nasr stressed, in response to the reason for the union not taking a proactive step, that “Matters are constantly escalating and we are coming to the greatest. Therefore, we cannot delay any longer. We have been in contact with the Ministry of Education, and the Minister is doing his duty, but we have found that things cannot wait any longer. We need decisive solutions because we are on the cusp of the school year”.

Concerning the fate of the aid which reached some schools, Father Nasr stated that the aid which came to Catholic schools from the French Embassy was very small, and it constituted 2 percent of the school’s budget for the past year and it will continue for this academic year, but it is insufficient.

“Nothing solves our crisis but state support and intervention. The state is responsible for us, thanks to the gifts, friendly countries and donor institutions, but we have a state responsible for the educational sector, so let it bear its responsibility. And as you find solutions to other issues, you can find a solution for this sector because it affects all of our children” Father Nasr said.

“Who in the country does not have children or grandchildren in schools? Are they satisfied with their children staying at home? No one is satisfied with that at all. Are the teachers satisfied with keeping their children at home? No one is satisfied with that, and we all have an interest in returning to schools, which are a public need and interest. So we have to pay attention to this sector” Father Nasr concluded.

  • NNA