HomeSportsLebanon's empty schools indicate long-term damage from the crisis

Lebanon’s empty schools indicate long-term damage from the crisis

BEIRUT (AP) — On a recent school day, Rene Mouawad High School in Beirut was empty, its classrooms dark, as has been the case in all of Lebanon’s public schools over the past three months. Its striking teachers were protesting in front of the Ministry of Education, not far away.

Around a hundred teachers joined the protest outside the ministry, blocking traffic and holding placards demanding pay hike. “We are working with donations,” said Nisreen Chahine, head of the contract teachers’ union. “We are not negotiating anymore. They should either pay right or us or go home.

The teachers gave speeches and demanded the officers to come out and talk to them. But as usual in these regular protests, no one from the ministry came. After several hours, the teachers packed up and went home.

Lebanon’s schools crumble under the weight of the country’s economic collapse as the political leadership – which led to the crisis decades of corruption and mismanagement – shy away from taking any measures to solve it. Since the recession began in late 2019, more than three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people have plunged into poverty, their wealth evaporating as the currency’s value shrinks and inflation hits the world’s highest mark. One of the rates.

Most of the country’s children have not gone to school for months – many even before teachers, who say they can no longer live on their salaries, went on strike in December. Lebanon was once known for producing a highly skilled, educated workforce. But now an entire generation is deprived of schooling, causing long-term damage to the country’s economy and future prospects.

The teachers called their strike because their salaries in Lebanese pounds have fallen too low to cover rent and other basic expenses. The pound has gone from 1,500 to the dollar before the crisis 100,000 to the present dollar. Most teachers are now paid roughly the equivalent of $1 an hour, even after several pay increases since 2019. Grocery store And other businesses now usually price their goods in dollars.

The teachers are demanding adjusted pay, transport stipend and health benefits. The government only offered to partially cover transport, saying it did not have the budget for more. Although schools partially reopened last week after some teachers returned to work, most chose to continue the strike.

Even before the crisis, Lebanon’s investment in public schools was limited. Government spending on education in 2020 was equal to 1.7% of Lebanon’s GDP, According to the World Bank, one of the lowest rates in the world. The 2022 budget allocated 3.6 trillion Lebanese lira for education – the equivalent of about $90 million at the time the budget was passed in October, less than half of the $182 million budget on education from the donor-funded humanitarian programme.

Instead, the government has over the years relied on private and charity schools to educate the children. Humanitarian agencies paid to cover salaries and keep crumbling infrastructure running. Two-thirds of Lebanese children once attended private schools, but hundreds of thousands have dropped out in recent years as private schools have had to increase tuition to cover rising costs. Public and private schools are struggling to keep the lights on as fuel costs soar.

Even before the strike, more than 700,000 children in Lebanon, many of whom were Syrian refugees, were not in school due to the economic crisis. With the strike, an additional 500,000 joined their ranks, according to UNICEF.

“It means we now see kids who are 10, 12, 14 years old and they are not even able to write their name or a basic sentence,” AT Higgins, UNICEF’s deputy representative for Lebanon, told The Associated Press. UNICEF said last week it provided nearly $14 million to help pay staff at more than 1,000 public schools.

Rana Ghalib, a mother of four, said she worries about seeing her children at home when they should be at school. Her 14-year-old son had to repeat 6th grade because he had fallen behind during previous disruptions.

“The classrooms are basically empty because teachers are demanding their rights and they are dark because there is no fuel,” Ghalib told the AP.

The international community is pressing Lebanon’s leaders to undertake sweeping reforms to the economy, financial system and governance in order to receive a $3 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and unlock development aid. The political elite, which has run the country since 1990, has ground to a halt – as critics say the reforms will weaken their grip on power and money. amid political impasseThere has been no president for months, and the government functions only in a limited caretaker capacity.

Meanwhile, academia is getting involved banksmedicine and Electricity In the category of failed institutions of Lebanon. This could cause long-term damage: Lebanon has traditionally relied on its educated and skilled diaspora population abroad to send money back home to support families, invest and pour dollars into the banking system. Skilled migration skyrocketed during the economic crisis, leaving remittances as Lebanon’s last economic lifeline.

Hussein Cheeto, an economist and non-resident fellow at the Washington-based think tank The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, says the crippled education system will “further erode the social fabric” of Lebanon and deepen poverty.

“It will have an impact on the long-term growth of the economy,” he told the AP. “This means there will be less access to jobs in the future … (and) will weaken the labor market in general.”

Meanwhile, Ghalib keeps an eye on his children, who are watching TV and playing with their cellphones when they are usually studying. Even his 9-year-old daughter knows her future is at risk.

“My youngest daughter tells me, ‘I want to be a doctor, but how can I do that if I’m sitting at home?’ Ghalib said. “I don’t know what to tell her.”



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