Education Minister Elias Bou Saab yielded on Tuesday to the demands of the Syndicate Coordination Committee not to mark the official exams, hoping a dispute on the wage scale would be resolved by the end of the week.
“I decided to postpone issuing passing certificates to students who stood for the official exams until the end of the week,” Bou Saab told members of the SCC who protested near the education ministry.
“We will see what we can do in the coming four days,” he said. “The SCC is essential and its actions lead to results. I believe in it.”
“I decided to stop marking the exams upon its wishes,” added Bou Saab after he met with officials from the SCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees.
The SCC held the protest near the education ministry as part of a general strike aimed at pressuring lawmakers to approve the public sector wage scale and amid a showdown with contract teachers on the correction of official exams.
A dispute erupted at the protest site between the teachers in favor of correcting the exams and others rejecting to do so.
SCC member Mohammed Qassem said at the rally that he “hoped the Lebanese would understand our suffering.”
“We have been waiting for the wage scale for the past three years,” he said, stressing that the SCC won't mark the exams.
Another SCC member, Nehme Mahfoud, said Bou Saab's “attempt to strike the SCC will fail.”
“We won't correct the exams,” he added.
During the protest, several contract teachers entered the education ministry building to agree on the needed criteria to mark the exams. But Mahfoud tried to convince them to back off from their decision.
Some SCC members chanted that they won't mark the exams while others, mainly members of the committees tasked with correcting the tests, were in favor.
Bou Saab announced Monday that if few teachers from the correction committees showed up at the education ministry, then he will begin, starting Wednesday, issuing passing statements for Grade 12 and Grade 9 school students who sat for the official exams.
He appeared among protesters, saying that there were enough teachers to put the criteria.
“Around 50 or 60 teachers are preventing the rest to proceed with the correction of the exams,” Bou Saab said. They should deal with their colleagues in a civilized manner, he added.
But the head of the SCC, Hanna Gharib, and Qassem denied Bou Saab's claim and went into talks with him.
The meeting resulted in the minister's announcement that he would postpone issuing the certificates.
Gharib declared during a press conference on Monday that the SCC rejects the idea of certificates, demanding political blocs to “sympathize with the teachers and students” and approve the new wage scale.
In June, Bou Saab struck a deal with the SCC to hold the exams but not correct them until the salary scale was approved by the parliament.
Although parliamentary blocs have expressed their support for the public sector's rights, they have warned that Lebanon's ailing economy would suffer if the total funding was not reduced from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion).
They have also disagreed on how to raise taxes to fund the scale over fears of inflation and its affect on the poor.
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