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In Lebanon, which has been in crisis, the school year is in turmoil. WGN Radio 720

Beirut (AP) — This fall, the Lebanese school year is experiencing the same turmoil that has overwhelmed everything else in the country with financial and economic collapse.

Thousands of teachers are on strike, demanding salary adjustments to deal with hyperinflation and the free fall of currencies. Now, a month’s salary is barely enough to fill a vehicle’s gas tank twice.

It is not even certain that they can fill up with a serious fuel shortage. School buses are no longer given and heating for cold winter classes is not guaranteed.

The school’s opening was postponed several times as the underfunded government negotiated with the teachers union about an estimated $ 500 million adjustment package.

As a result, some private schools have started classes, but most of Lebanon’s 1.2 million students do not yet know when they will return to school. Meanwhile, teachers are quitting in a fuss looking for better opportunities abroad.

Many are afraid of the lost generation in a country that not only missed the school year, but also takes pride in competing globally with the number of graduated scientists and engineers.

The school has already been confused by a series of events over the last two years. Protests that began in late 2019 interrupted the school year and switched to online classes primarily in 2020 due to a pandemic, increasing poverty. According to UNICEF, about 400,000 children were out of school in 2020.

Struggling parents have moved their children from private schools (usually advertised as top-notch education) to public schools. According to Save the Children’s Araa Fumaid, more than 50,000 students transferred last year, much more this year.

This is putting pressure on the underfunded public sector, probably at the expense of the registration of Syrian and Palestinian refugees who rely on Lebanon’s public system.

“We don’t want to create a potential gap in the future that will prevent all generations from being educated,” Hmaid said in search of more resources for education.

According to UN statistics, 55% of Lebanon’s population is currently in poverty, 28% in 2018, but has effectively wiped out the once-large middle class. Salaries plummeted as the currency lost 90% of its value against the dollar.

More than 15% of Lebanon’s 53,000 private school teachers have left the country, causing a major shortage, said Rodolph Aboud, head of the teachers union.

In addition to the predicament, the explosion at Beirut Port last year, which devastated the capital, damaged more than 180 educational facilities.

In the midst of difficulties, parents are determined to find ways to get their children to school.

Lara Nasser, 38, has managed the slow decline of family poverty.

She was once an Arabic kindergarten teacher, her husband had a thriving food business, and her three children attended a private school. But over the past three years, she has been forced to move two boys (now 18 and 15 years old) from prestigious private schools, first to cheaper schools and then to public schools, in order to reduce costs. it was done.

It was a difficult decision, but she wanted to make sure she could afford to keep the youngest fifth grader in a private school until the end of primary education.

“I have a picture of her. She knows I have to move her to public school within two years. I can’t continue that way,” Nasar said.

Nasar was fired last year due to a decrease in face-to-face classes during the pandemic. Due to the financial crisis, her husband had to dismiss his staff and dramatically reduce his business. Instead of preparing home-cooked food, he runs a small, basic grocery store that is fuel-free and refrigerated unreliable.

Nasar is currently his only employee. During the teacher’s strike, Nasar’s kindergarten returned her job. But she refused to help her husband.

“We live with every drip,” she said.

She was able to secure financial support from her daughter’s school — a 50% reduction in fees. A week before class begins, she is still looking for used books in a local charity.

She shed tears as she talked about her sons’ love for basketball. They were saving their allowance to buy new shoes every year. Currently, she has little access to school shoes for them — their costs are well worth the national minimum wage and almost a month’s salary.

“See what we have to worry about,” she said.

Naima Sadaka said she saw an economic crisis in finding a school to enroll her children on a Facebook page opened three years ago after returning from Saudi Arabia with her family.

Over the past few months, membership on the Schools in Lebanon page has increased by 50% to 12,000. Questions and comments have changed from parents seeking recommendations to private schools to posts promoting used books and arranging a car pool in the face of a shortage of school buses.

Many people contacted Sadaka with a private message asking for a second-hand uniform, and Sadaka said he was too embarrassed to post on the page.

Parents need to worry about their children’s development and skill sets, but “here we are only concerned about getting our children to school,” said Sadaka, who lives in the southern city of Sidon.

There is little public transport, school bus fares triple, and government officials don’t help. So Sadaka had to come up with a school ride for her three children herself.

She arranged a ride for children aged 9 and 10 with a neighbor who works near her school, funded by an Islamic charity. For her daughter, a freshman in public school, Sadaka took on the job of teaching French there. It basically pays for gas. Her husband drops her and her daughter there every morning.

Former Saudi teacher Sadaka said he regrets returning. “It’s as if I were back 15 years ago,” she said.

“If they don’t save the education sector, we won’t have anything,” after Lebanese banks and hospitals, once a source of national pride and cash, were dysfunctional due to the economic crisis. Said.

Maya, their mother, missed a chance. She decided to quit in August as the fuel shortage became so severe that she couldn’t decide when to return to school.

She and her husband went to Cyprus, where she enrolled children aged 6 and 8 in an English school. The only French school on the island was overwhelmed by recently arriving Lebanese students. Speaking on the phone from Cyprus, she asked not to use her name to maintain privacy when coordinating with the new community.

In her child’s private school in Lebanon, she said at least half of the students in her class of teachers and daughters were gone.

“Who teaches our children? What kind of friends do they leave? This is what I was worried about. It’s no longer the same standard.”

In Lebanon, which has been in crisis, the school year is in turmoil. WGN Radio 720

Source link In Lebanon, which has been in crisis, the school year is in turmoil. WGN Radio 720

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