Lebanese teachers’ union singles out politicians for country’s woes

published 9 October 2015 updated 13 October 2015

The President of the Teachers Syndicate of Lebanon, Nehme Mahfoud, has lashed out at the political elite of his country for not settling their differences, causing the country to have a disfunctional parliament, a paralised government and no head of state.

"We are suffering the consequences of their irresponsible behaviour," Mahfoud said at a teachers' conference in Beirut on 9 October. "Teachers have not been paid the living index that was promised to them two years ago. The starting salary has now dropped below the country's minimum wage of 450 US and qualified teachers are leaving the profession."

Mahfoud warned the public authorities that the teacher unions would have to resort to industrial action if the government would continue ignoring agreements.

Mahfoud made his remarks during the Teachers Syndicate of Lebanon's 2nd educational conference in Beirut on 9 and 10 October. Improving education quality, teachers's professinal development and the social and professional status of teachers were among the issues debated by some 400 delegates.

The conference also addressed the ever growing number of Syrians seeking refuge in the country. More than 200,000 Syrian refugee children have been welcomed in the Lebanese schools. But poor school buildings, overcrowded class rooms, and a shortage of teaching and learning materials have caused the quality of schooling to decline."Urgent action is required to ensure  that both the Lebanese and Syrian students are treated fairly," said TSL Predsident Mahfoud.

"More than 300 thousand refugee children are still out of school. This will lead to  illiteracy and poverty and it will incite extremism. We must go back to the roots of the refugee problem and stop the war in Syria, where innocent people are forced to choose between tyranny, ISIS or leaving the country."

Education International (EI) General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, also addressing the conference, said that  the International had made strong pleas at the UN to increase international aid to help Lebanon, Jordan,  Iraq and Turkey provide education to refugee children. He stressed that teachers’ unions should be consulted on the use of such aid and that it should be spent in a transparant way. Van Leeuwen also said that where international agencies such as Unicef and the World Bank are running education programs,  they should do this in consultation with our member unions.

"Those programmes should not affect the funding, governance and functioning of the national schoolsystems, and teachers should be hired and paid in accordance with existing agreements".

The Teachers Syndicate of Lebanon, EI's largest affiliate in Lebanon, has 35,000 members predominantlyemployed in private schools. Private education represents 72 percent of the Lebanese school system with 40,000 teachers in early childhood up to secondary education.