Online Education

After paying for gas, the teacher has only $3 a month to live on

“For the fourth consecutive year, teachers, schools, parents and students are preparing for another busy school year in Lebanon. As the summer holidays draw to a close (some private students have already returned to school), the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) has still not developed a clear strategy or vision to address the myriad challenges affecting education prospects. one and a half million Lebanese and Syrian students. On the contrary, it is pushing 39,000 teachers in state schools and 50,000 teachers in the private sector to save more. And to avoid faculty strikes, he is content with accepting half-hearted solutions. It offers teachers insignificant financial compensation, while threatening them with disciplinary measures if they refrain from visiting the school due to unaffordable transportation costs. Meanwhile, students have missed a lot of school over the past three years due to the 2019 popular uprising, the COVID-19 pandemic and teacher strikes. This appalling description is at the heart of a study published in early September by the Center for Lebanese Studies at the Lebanese American University (LAU), jointly conducted by Mohammad Hammoud and Maha Cheaib, who sound the alarm. “Lebanon’s children cannot afford to lose another school year,” the researchers warn.

No plan for the Department of Education

The aim of the Center for Lebanese Studies is to evaluate the performance of the government, the Ministry of Education and the donor community. Above all, he intends to put pressure on them to push them to develop a strategy worthy of the name. Therefore, this study is for the second year in a row about the impact of the crisis on the education sector in Lebanon. “The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. And still not the smallest plan for the education department. Only last-minute solutions are proposed, without impact or feasibility studies,” complains Maha Cheaib, who was contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour. “The management of education has been sad for so many years. First at the level of the ministry, its chaotic structure, lack of personnel, the departure of its director general Fadi Yarak, the lack of transparency of its decision-making authority,” he grumbles. Even worse, “large sums of aid have been given to education. These sums were spent without results, without transparency, without investigations to identify the waste and thefts, and without anyone being held accountable,” he accuses, pointing the finger at the Lebanese authorities. international organizations on the one hand and donors on the other. “Donors are partly responsible for not demanding more transparency and not challenging MEHE’s continued failure to deliver on its promises over the past 30 years,” Ms Cheaib insists. Therefore, there is an urgent need to respond before it is too late for students from Lebanon. “Otherwise, children in Lebanon could lose their fourth year of schooling,” the study warns.

With this in mind, the research organization conducted an online survey of 2,700 parents of students (89% in private schools and 11% in public schools) and 1,512 teachers (57% in private schools and 43% in public schools) distributed among eight governorates. A round table was also organized with representatives of various teaching unions, parents, education actors and civil society to discuss the results and develop recommendations for a successful school year.

This table details the impact of the crisis on teachers: 89% said the crisis affected their psychological well-being, 69% their motivation at work, 46% their relationship with school management and 28% their teaching performance.

Teachers’ salaries, the equivalent of $131 a month

For teachers, the impact of the crisis is simply dramatic, as their salaries are worthless since the collapse of the national currency. No drastic measures have been taken to compensate for their loss of purchasing power, other than a flat monthly compensation of $90 per public sector teacher, which is largely inadequate.

“Since 2019, as a result of the depreciation of the Lebanese pound (it hit a record high of 39,000 LL to one dollar yesterday), salaries paid in the local currency have lost more than 90% of their value,” the researchers report. Despite the financial compensation that some teachers have benefited from, the excessively low salaries no longer cover their basic expenses. According to people who responded to investigators, “the average monthly income of a teacher, paid in Lebanese pounds, is now worth only the equivalent of $131. As for shipping costs, they amount to $128 per month. That leaves the teacher with only 3 dollars to live on for the whole month”.

This situation led to 66% of teachers taking a second job to cover their living expenses and two-thirds borrowing money to meet their basic needs. Because 73% of teachers said they had trouble paying their bills. Unsurprisingly, monthly electricity and internet bills are 139% of their average monthly income. Worse still, the financial crisis has deprived teachers of basic human needs, with nearly all, 99%, saying the crisis has limited their access to health services.

High transport costs have also forced 60% of teachers to skip classes. As a result, 20% of them were disciplined for absenteeism and denied the additional monthly allowance of $90 (basically given to all public teachers). The CEL study further emphasizes the reality that negatively affected their motivation to work and their psychological well-being, as well as their relationship with management.

Moreover, this additional allowance, which was supposed to compensate for salary devaluation, was described as average by more than three quarters of teachers (86%). Because only government teachers got this compensation, while a large section of contract and suspended employees were deprived of it. Similarly, the results of private and public school unions were considered unsatisfactory by half of the respondents, as these organizations did not provide teachers with adequate support.

The failure of stakeholders to respond adequately to the crisis has left many teachers in despair. 73% of them plan to leave the education sector and three quarters plan to leave Lebanon. “The drastic decline in the quality of life for teachers is one of the biggest challenges in today’s education,” says Mrs. Cheaib. “The only way out of the problem is to reevaluate teachers’ salaries once and for all, and not just help them somehow,” he recommends.

In this chart, we can see the gap that separates the average monthly household income, which is around $462, and the average annual cost of tuition and transportation, which is $2,355.

Parents faced the dollarization of school fees

Another big challenge in the sector is the decline in the purchasing power of parents of students, whose income is mainly in the national currency. According to the researcher, they simply do not have the means to meet the request of private schools to pay a contribution in fresh dollars, in addition to tuition fees in Lebanese pounds.

When factoring in the average annual tuition per child ($1,037) and school transportation ($1,318), parents have to pay an average of $2,355 per child at the school. private school, the study points out. Despite red lines imposed by the Ministry of Education, 7 out of 10 parents said their child’s school required part of the school fees to be paid in “fee” dollars, in addition to the increase in school fees in Lebanese pounds. Due to this significant increase, the average monthly household income declared by parents is limited to $462, which means that 42% of their annual income is dedicated to a child’s education, and these figures do not include additional costs such as books and stationery.

With tuition rising, half of parents said they had recently transferred their child from a private to a public school, with 87% saying they could no longer afford the tuition. All of these challenges threaten children’s educational futures, with 72% of parents saying they may no longer have the means to pay for their child’s education and 10% saying their child may have to start school early.

The impact of the crisis on the child’s future in numbers: 72% of parents could no longer afford to educate their children, 10% of parents expect their children to enter the labor market earlier, 10% believe that it has no impact and 8% believe that the crisis could also have other consequences.

Necessary structural reforms

The consequences for students are devastating. Children in Lebanon, especially Syrians, have been deprived of learning for the past three years, which may jeopardize their educational future. According to a third of parents and teachers interviewed, the crisis has reduced the school performance and overall psychological well-being of children, with 10% dropping out and 15% repeating. Similarly, the economic crisis affected the functioning of schools. Three quarters of teachers said their schools were not quite ready for the start of the new school year due to fuel and staff shortages, which could have a significant impact on the quality of teaching and apprenticeships for the fourth consecutive year.

“For the fourth consecutive year, teachers, schools, parents and students are preparing for another busy school year in Lebanon. While the summer holidays are coming to an end (some private students have already returned to school), the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) is still…

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