After paying for his 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 eventful school year in Lebanon. While the summer holidays are coming to an end (some of the 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 the learning prospects of one and a half million Lebanese and Syrian students. On the contrary, it pushes the 39,000 teachers in public schools and the 50,000 teachers in the private sector to more austerity. And to avoid faculty strikes, he is content to adopt half-hearted solutions. It offers teachers insignificant financial compensation, while threatening them with disciplinary measures if they refrain from going to school because of the unaffordable cost of transport. Meanwhile, students have missed school a lot over the past three years due to the popular uprising in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and teacher strikes. This appalling description is at the heart of a study published in early September by the Center for Lebanese Studies attached to the Lebanese American University (LAU), jointly carried out by Mohammad Hammoud and Maha Cheaib who are sounding the alarm. “Children in Lebanon cannot afford to lose another school year,” the researchers warn.

No plan for the education sector

The Center for Lebanese Studies aims to assess 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. Hence this study for the second consecutive year on the impact of the crisis on the education sector in Lebanon. “The start of the school year is imminent. And still not the slightest plan for the education sector. Only last-minute solutions are proposed, without an impact or feasibility study,” laments Maha Cheaib, contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour. “The management of education has been dismal for so many years. First at the level of the ministry, its chaotic structure, its lack of staff, the departure of its director general Fadi Yarak, the opacity of its decision-making power, ”she grumbles. Worse still, “massive amounts of aid have been granted to education. These sums were spent without result, without transparency, without investigation to identify waste and theft, and without any person in charge ever being called to account,” she accuses, pointing the finger at the Lebanese authorities. on the one hand, international organizations and donors on the other. “Donors are partly responsible for not demanding greater transparency and for not questioning MEHE’s continued failure to deliver on its promises over the past 30 years,” insists Ms. Cheaib. Hence the urgency to react before it is too late for the students of Lebanon. “Otherwise, children in Lebanon could lose a fourth year of their schooling,” warns the study.

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 the eight mohafazats. A round table was also organized with representatives from different teacher unions, parents, education and civil society actors to discuss the results and develop recommendations for a successful school year.

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

Teacher salaries, the equivalent of $131 per month

For teachers, the impact of the crisis is simply dramatic, because their salaries are worthless since the collapse of the national currency. And no drastic measures have been taken to compensate for the loss of their purchasing power, apart from a flat monthly compensation of 90 dollars per teacher in the public sector, which is largely insufficient.

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

This situation has led 66% of teachers to take on a second job to cover their living expenses and two-thirds to borrow money to meet their basic needs. Because 73% of teachers said they had trouble paying their bills. Unsurprisingly, given that monthly electricity and internet bills represent 139% of their average monthly income. Worse still, the financial crisis has deprived teachers of their basic human needs, with almost all of them, or 99%, saying that the crisis has limited their access to medical services.

The high cost of transport also forced 60% of teachers to miss class days. As a result, 20% of them suffered disciplinary measures for absenteeism and were denied the additional monthly allowance of 90 dollars (given in principle to all public teachers). A reality that negatively affected their motivation to work and their psychological well-being, as well as their relationship with their management, further highlights the CEL study.

This additional allowance, supposed to compensate for the salary devaluation, was moreover described as mediocre by more than three quarters of the teachers (86%). Because only public teachers have been granted this compensation, while a large part of contract and intermittent workers have been deprived of it. Similarly, the performance of private and public education unions was deemed unsatisfactory by half of the interviewees, as these organizations did not provide adequate support to teachers.

The failure of stakeholders to respond appropriately to the crisis has driven many teachers to 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 of teachers is one of the major challenges in education today,” comments Ms. Cheaib. “The only way out of the problem is to revalue teachers’ salaries once and for all, and not just give them some help,” she recommends.

In this table, we can see the abyss that separates the average monthly household income, which is around 462 USD, and the average annual tuition and transport costs, which amount to 2,355 USD.

Parents faced with the dollarization of school fees

Another major challenge in the sector is the decline in the purchasing power of parents of students, whose income is mainly in the national currency. 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 in Lebanese pounds, according to the researcher.

Counting the average tuition fees per year and per child ($1,037) and school transportation ($1,318), parents must pay an average amount of $2,355 per child at school. private school, underlines the study. Despite the red lines imposed by the Ministry of Education, 7 in 10 parents indicated that their child’s school required that a portion of the tuition be paid in “fee” dollars, in addition to the increase in schooling in Lebanese pounds. Faced with this significant increase, the average monthly income of households declared by parents is limited to 462 dollars, which means that 42% of their annual income is devoted to the education of a child, these figures excluding additional costs such as books and stationery.

With rising tuition fees, 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 tuition. All of these challenges threaten children’s educational future as 72% of parents said they may no longer have the means to pay for their child’s education and 10% indicated that their child may have to start school early. labor market.

blankThe impact of the crisis on the future of the child in figures: 72% of parents could no longer afford to take on the education of their children, 10% of parents expect their children to enter earlier on the labor market, 10% believe that there is no impact and 8% believe that the crisis could have other impacts.

The necessary structural reforms

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

“For the fourth consecutive year, teachers, schools, parents and students are preparing for another eventful school year in Lebanon. While the summer holidays are coming to an end (some of the private students have already returned to school), the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) has still not …

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