Lebanon News

Students have the most to lose with ongoing UCC strike

File - Students attend their official exams at a school in Beirut, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Karim’s university semester in the United States is slated to start Aug. 25, but his admission has been delayed because of the ongoing teachers’ boycott over the marking of official exams.

Due to the ongoing strike, the grade 12 student, living in Sidon, was unable to send his official exam results to the university, essential for the administration to decide whether to accept him into its civil engineering program.

“They [the university] already pushed my deadline to Aug. 1. Classes start on Aug. 25 and I should be there 15 days before this date,” Karim told The Daily Star.

After losing hope that the strike would come to an end anytime soon, Karim sent his final averages at school to the university.

“I expect to get a response in two days,” he said. But the student lamented that his final average “was not that good,” adding that he probably fared better in the official exams.

“I focused more on the official exams. I told them [the university] that I did not do my best at school, but focused on the exams because they are usually what count,” he said.

Asked who was responsible for the issue, Karim said: “You cannot blame anyone. For sure you cannot blame students. What is happening negatively affects their lives and future. I have been planning to study abroad for the past year.”

Teachers are boycotting the marking of official exams in a bid to pressure Parliament to pass the long-awaited salary raise for the public sector.

The strike was spearheaded by the Union Coordination Committee, a coalition of teachers and public sector employees who have been holding protests and strikes for around three years over the same demand.

Parliament has failed several times to pass the pay hike due to lingering differences among political parties on how to finance the raise.

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said Wednesday that the ministry would issue statements of success for all grade 9 and grade 12 students within 48 hours if the strike continued. He added that he did not expect the pay hike to be passed before at least one month.

The UCC dismissed the move, saying it would negatively impact the reputation of official exams.

Although Hadi Sharif, another grade 12 student, was accepted to an engineering program at a university in Lebanon, he was still in need of the results of official exams to in order to feel “comfortable.”

“They [the university] said they want the Grade 12 certificate by Aug. 8, but they said they can wait,” Sharif said.

“But I want the results to be released so that I am relieved,” Sharif said.

Rami Shatila, who also took grade 12 official exams, is more confused. “I haven’t applied to any university yet. I don’t know what to do,” he said. “Everyone blames the other for what is happening. We blame the teachers, they blame the [education] minister, who in turn blames Parliament,” Shatila said. “But we are the victims in the end.”

Rita Kajajian is undecided about whom to support. Her husband is a member of the Lebanese Army and would benefit from the salary raise if passed. But her son took grade 12 official exams.

“I feel I should support the teachers’ strike on one hand, but I tell myself that this is endangering my son’s future on the other,” she said.

Kajajian said that her son, who currently has a summer job, would sit for an entrance exam at the Lebanese University on Aug. 10.

“The score he will get along with the official exam grades are crucial for deciding whether he will be accepted or not,” Kajajian said.

She said she was waiting for the Education Ministry’s decision on the matter, expecting that the upcoming academic year at universities might be delayed.

“I feel we will neither get a salary raise nor will teachers correct official exams.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 07, 2014, on page 4.




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