Officials In Lebanon Can’t Decide What To Do About The Schools

Lebanese University | LBC Group

As the new deadline to reopen schools in Lebanon approaches, the Education Ministry is coming under more pressure in its attempts to ensure a smooth start of the upcoming school year.

The Ministry’s performance in this regard has drawn criticism from former Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, who recently blasted the current caretaker education minister, Tarek Al-Majzoub.

In a TV appearance, Bou Saab accused Al-Majzoub of hindering the disbursement of the allocated budget of his ministry by failing to manage this task.

Bou Saab criticized Al-Majzoub’s performance as Education Minister, pointing out that if he had still been in that role, he would’ve already achieved readiness for distance education.

“I’ve not spoken with Al-Majzoub for months because he took the Education Ministry to a place where he had no mercy on students, parents, private schools, nor public schools. I lost hope in him, and he is obstructive by nature,” he issued.

The former minister indicated that Al-Majzoub was the one “obstructing the disbursement of the sum approved by the Parliament for implementing interactive electronic curricula in public schools.”

“I don’t think that Al-Majzoub knows how to disburse this money and he does not have the ability to manage this file,” the former minister added.

He pointed out that it’s the reason why Al-Majzoub “put the responsibility on the Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD) that did its work in the end.”

Just a few weeks ago, in August, the head of the CERD, Nada Oueijan, stated that Lebanon was not ready for schools to reopen in September.

Her statement caused Al-Majzoob to accuse her of exceeding her powers and dismiss her from her position, although her removal was not officially justified.

Al-Majzoub revisited this highly controversial issue in a recent TV appearance, during which he revealed a curious encounter that had taken place between him and Abou Saab concerning Oueijan.

“She’s the cousin of former Minister Elias Bou Saab, and he literally told me that she was a red line,” current minister Al-Majzoub said. “I told him that the red line was 1,300,000 students and not a politician.”

Notably, Bou Saab denied that he had referred to Oueijan as a red line. “I never sent [Al-Majzoub] a message, I did not say ‘red line,’ nor did I speak to him at all.”

For the past few months, the Education Ministry has been preparing to enter the new school year with a heavy reliance on distance learning as a safer and more practical option during the pandemic.

However, the execution of this plan, which includes providing each student with a personal computer for online classes, file sharing, and other activities, though necessary, is not an easy task, caretaker Minister Al-Majzoub recently explained.

Earlier this week, the Lebanese government postponed the start of the 2020-2021 school year until October 12th in light of the recent spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

On Friday, Lebanon recorded the highest number of cases in one day, bringing the current number of active cases to 18,851.

With not much time ahead, and with the risk of costing countless students an educational year, the priority remains in ensuring that the necessary preparations for a seamless return to school are in place.

Meanwhile, with the pandemic reaching its peak, calling students back to school, in person, doesn’t appear to be a wise decision.

In a recent incident this week, a student tested positive right after sitting her official exams in-person, as demanded by the ministry, which has brought a lawsuit to be filed against her.

Reportedly, she had no symptoms showing that she was infected. She sat for her 2-day exams at the center, among her peers and the supervising teachers.