As the academic year gets underway around the world, many parents in Lebanon are still uncertain if their children will go to school. Teachers’ strikes last year closed most public schools and kept half a million children out of school.
“I have one boy and I put him in a public school. I am honoured to put him in a public school. Firstly, I don’t have the means to put him in a private school, and secondly, we must support the government, because some of the teachers in public schools are the best,” a woman in Lebanon told SAT-7 program You are Not Alone.
The current affairs program is covering the issue and heard perspectives on the strikes from teachers, students, and government officials. The falling value of the Lebanese Pound means that most teachers are now paid the equivalent of just $1 an hour – not enough for them to live on as prices for essentials soar.
“Our salary is not enough to fill up our cars with petrol. At the same time, all those in authority are asking teachers to return to their jobs and are putting sanctions on us if we don’t comply,” Iyad Abou Khozam, a teacher at a public school in Lebanon, told You Are Not Alone.
Even before the strike, more than 700,000 children in Lebanon, many of them Syrian refugees, were not in school because of the economic crisis. The strike added a further 500,000 to their number.
“Education in Lebanon is one of the first casualties of a crisis in the country. Today, we face the threat of public schools closing their doors for this academic year. Yet we hope students will return to their schools and the teachers will get their rights,” said You Are Not Alone presenter Sirene Semerdjian.
THREAT TO SOCIETY
The program interviewed Manal Hdaife, principal of a public school in Lebanon and Chair of Education, International Arab Countries Cross-Regional Structure. She had encouraged teachers in her school to continue doing their jobs during the last academic year despite their low pay because they have a responsible role.
“This situation is a threat to society,” she said. “A whole generation may lose the opportunity for education.”
Hdaife added, “I want to send my regards to all teachers and school principals who insisted on going to work despite the strikes because we are responsible for the students and for our calling. But living conditions are difficult, and teachers are finding it difficult to make it to school and have the basics of life.”
While some families borrowed money to pay private tutors, thousands of students missed the whole academic year, and some even ended up working on the streets to support their families. However, thanks to the dedication of Hdaife and her teachers, some students managed to complete the school year.
“Despite the teachers’ strike last year, our school continued, and our teachers car-pooled to come to school so we could continue to learn. This meant a lot to me, because they were planting in us a spirit of positivity,” said Lara Moawad, a student in a public school.
In an attempt to end the strikes and encourage teachers back to work, the Ministry of Education in Lebanon has agreed to give them a 300 USD monthly bonus.
Consecutive crises have compounded Lebanon’s political and economic struggles in recent years, including the continuous influx of Syrian refugees, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Beirut port explosion.
The ongoing uncertainty of education provision in the country highlights the need for alternative forms of learning for those who cannot afford private schooling. SAT-7’s My School program – originally created to give out-of-school Syrian refugee children access to learning – is helping to fill the gap.
Although the filming of the five seasons of My School is now complete, all episodes will continue being aired on SAT-7 KIDS and multiple social media platforms, and also shown on SAT-7’s video-on-demand service SAT-7 PLUS for years to come.
Would you please pause and pray for the following right now?
- Pray that all children in Lebanon will have access to schooling and that teachers will receive sufficient remuneration.
- Give thanks for projects like My School, which are helping to fill the gap while schools are closed.