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Sadly, we have lost 14-year-young Abbas Hussein Yazbeck, several hours after he shot himself in the head for no other reason than failing his Brevet official exam. Pain, shock, and outrage grab the nation by the core and every Lebanese family by the soul. How could such tragedy have happened? Was the pressure to succeed so intolerable? Since when do we deem failure a dead-end? Who should be held accountable?
In that same outrage that is ransacking all talks, our nation comes nonetheless to a standstill as we hold our breath in wait for the aftermath; our eyes on the government, our minds on our societal and parental mindset, and our spirits in prayers that the death of young Abbas would not go in vain.
Many people blame the Ministry of Education and its latest procedures regarding the official exams, installing cameras in the rooms, and army men monitoring them, etc. As per the blamers, the procedures have instilled Hunger-Games-like terror in the students' souls.
Some are going as far as holding accountable the whole educational system in Lebanon, which, according to them, is deeply 'flawed' from its roots.
In that, they talk about its high rigidity and demands, its strong competitiveness and tough grading, undervaluing the gifted students in non-academic subjects such as arts and sports, and, more importantly, the must of the official exit exams.
Some others insist that Abbas' self-inflicted action is the direct result of strict parenting, especially in matters of failure and success, which (understandably) has a much worse effect on the kids' mental health than the previously mentioned arguments.
Education being of utmost importance in our society, regardless of status and means, parents tend to pressure their children to succeed, some not too positively.
Other reasons are being discussed, such as social shame and peer's pressure, bullying, fear of failing in life, etc.
As for me, I want to put myself in Abbas' shoes. I don't know what his parents or friends are like, but I know that 14-year-old me back then was having panic attacks, waiting for that number "that determines my life fate" to pop-up on my Windows XP screen.
It was terrifying and, yes, it felt like a matter of life and death. Is it logical now that I look back at it? Of course not! But try telling that to 14-year-old me when that Brevet exit exam is so scaringly crucial in Lebanon!
Abbas had his own personal story, and we shall keep wondering, but I'm sure it would be worth knowing.
No, Abbas wouldn't have cared if the minister of Education had resigned...
No, Abbas was not really hoping for an educational system to be replaced overnight by a better one before pulling that trigger, because he knew it won't; at least not magically that he could benefit from it before reaching college.
Yes, Abbas deserved a better education system, more tolerant exam procedures, more tolerant society, and maybe more lenient parenting and more empathetic classmates if this is the case in his narrative. A narrative of a young student who, as reported in Al-Liwaa News, was always succeeding in his classes...
Most of the opinions circulating over social media platforms have some truth in them. The situation in Lebanon is far from being perfect, and a long term plan is indeed needed to improve the method of education in our country; a wiser one, a smarter one, a progressive one, where the burdening fats are trimmed off, where the State trusts the schools' full capability to conduct their own passing exams, and so on.
One has to only read all these comments on social media and hear all these social debates to gather that all of us seem to be owning the "secret recipe" for saving the country.
However, all of us also forgot that a 10-minute conversation, with someone who acknowledges the emotions of failing and brings in the understanding that failure is not shameful nor a dead end, would have been sufficient to save Abbas's life!
When our house is set on fire, we try to extinguish it before analyzing what might have caused it, or what might prevent it in the future. The will to renovate it is commendable, but prevention and awareness of hazards are a must to impede the disaster to befall on us.
As for the ongoing comments on social media, I believe it important for me to state that when the death of a child is involved, there is a line no one is permitted to cross. Yet some did in the case of young Abbas.
Here's something I read on Facebook: "What a snowflake! When I was his age, there was war! I've had it much worse and I didn't kill myself!" Well, that person must have been past his 40s if he lived during the war. Quite a mature age, I would say, for someone to play the life-immune hero on a child.
The cruelest one could ever do towards a young human being in his emotional hardships is to express lack of enough humanity -or none whatsoever as in the above comment- to empathize and even sympathize with the child; and in this case, with the family as well.
Awareness is crucial but also our individual care to those around us. That friend of yours who has been canceling appointments the last minute might be struggling with something detrimental. Check on him or her. That girl crying alone under the tree is not 'making a scene.' Her emotional hardship might be deeper than you assume. A simple "Hello" might save her.
That classmate of yours who is devastated for failing an exam, don't tease him or bully him, you might be the saturating drop that pushes him to his end. And these children of ours, braving already a difficult and demanding education system, listen to their struggles with an arm around their shoulders.
Teach them to embrace their failures as experiences of empowerment, for the greatest men who walked this earth had plenty of them on their path to greatness.
We all want a better country, but We Are the country.
Let us listen.
Let us understand.
Let us be Lebanese again.
This can save lives.