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The Lebanese public schools are suffering

Par Ibrahim Chalhoub Rédigé le 24/05/2011 (dernière modification le 24/05/2011)

The situation of the public schools in Lebanon has almost always been degrading. Difficulties are of many types and they stem from the basic administrative structures of the government down to the lowest employment position. In the midst of the scandals about this sector some facts might be extremely surprising.

Outer wall…but what’s inside? Photo (c) Ibrahim Chalhoub.
Outer wall…but what’s inside? Photo (c) Ibrahim Chalhoub.
In the year 1998, the ex minister of education Jean Obeid, launched a plan to support the public schools of Lebanon which were considered by the general public as the worst place a child could be raised in and were left for the extremely poor and the gangsters. Children entering public schools were said to learn nothing but cursing, steeling habits, and bullying techniques. The ex minister took radical decisions in the execution of his plan among which the issuing of clearance certificates for students from private schools despite the fact that many have not paid their tuition fees. Accordingly, private schools suffered from a steep decrease in returns and sudden withdrawal of hundreds of students. More than two years had to elapse before the private schools could re-establish equilibrium in their activity, the time required for the public schools to disprove the corrections amended by the ex minister of education. What happened actually was not far from the general rule of transporting the majority of the money allocated for a certain project in a ministry to the benefits of some of its employees. Many projects have started in public schools after receiving the allocated money only to stop soon under the falsified reason of insufficient budget – the main bulk of the money actually went to the pockets of administrators. Such an efficient way it is to get rich very fast, indeed. On the other hand, the suffering of the public schools was doomed to continue.

Recruitment methodology

As alluded to in one of our previous French articles (Au Nord, Des Enfants En Souffrance), recruiting methodology in public schools follows what happens in the distribution of employees among partisans of different religions and political groups. It all starts with the allotment of the Lebanese leaders into political positions following the religious distribution which governs almost everything in the country’s public sector. The president of the republic is Christian Maronite, the prime minister Muslim Sunni, the president of the parliament Muslim Shiite. Representation of the people by parliament members also follows religious spreading upon which major political parties have been formed. Taking this political-religious fact as the basis of employment, it would be easy to state that every leader seeks to ensure his followers reaching certain positions in certain areas of the public sector. What results at the end point is the placement of incompetent people in unfitting positions. Applying this allocation to public schools one would be left with people without proper capacities in teaching positions. Lately, there has been a weak move toward replacing old teachers with young university graduates. However, one would have to wait for the old maladaptive teachers to finish their lifetime employment at 64 years of age.

Types of teachers

Keeping the new promising recruits aside we would be left with 4 types of teachers in public schools. Firstly, those who are not apt of teaching because they are weak in the material they teach like teachers of the French language who don’t even know how to pronounce what they try to teach. Main issues encountered with this group include wrong pronunciation of the French letters “e” (wrongly taught as é), “u” (taught as “i”) and confusion of the sounds “on” and “an”. Secondly, there are those who add to their weakness in the material a disinterest in teaching because they are only there to get the salary. Many of the members of this group leave the classroom haphazardly to smoke a cigarette or chat with their mates. Others would stay with the students telling them about their personal stuff like how they cook or raise their children. One should not forget the strength of identification among the last type of teachers who clearly show preference to specific students with whom they identify and an obvious hatred to some others despite the denial open questioning. Thirdly, which could be a variation of the second group, those who are highly uninterested and come to sign in the morning and leave early enough to get back home within 2 hours from the start of the working schedule. Members of this group are somehow highly related to the directors in the school who allow them to leave early and cover them when investigators show up basically by calling the teachers who left to come back and show themselves as if they returned from the rest rooms of the school. In addition most of the public schools directors and principles have blood relations to general directors of the ministry of education. Fourthly, any combination of the above 3 types of teachers could be put into a separate group.

At the psychological level

Perhaps all what has been described above could be tolerated when further issues are revealed. One would wonder why the public schools don’t recruit school psychologists for the necessary assessment and follow up on aberrations in addition to their usual work among students as well as teachers, just like what happens in private schools. Some of those aberrations include bullying among students. Who is capable of dealing with such a complex behavior in public schools? Teachers like those described above or school principles who interfere in the lives of students outside the school premises and participate in the bullying behavior through cursing and abusive words and clichés with which they tag the students?
Can those people deal with psychological harassment or bullying among students? Do they actually understand what psychology is? In fact, they ambivalently laugh at psychology if mentioned while positioning themselves in the shoes of experts in the field disseminating theories here and there and basing their words on what they mistakenly understood from parts of a squeezed discourse on a TV show that they comprehend according to what fits them.
On the other hand, public schools as well as other governmental institutions are considered niche areas for mentally ill patients. Unfortunately, a general difficulty in Lebanon turns around the taboo of mental illness. Therefore, instead of appropriately treating those patients and admitting them to properly specialized institutions they are sent to public schools among other governmental establishments. It is not uncommon to find schizophrenia patients many of whom are untreated amid teachers of public schools.

Currently, the economic situation is extremely difficult in Lebanon pushing a large majority toward a dramatically large withdrawal of students from private schools where the tuition fee became beyond the reach of the major population. Those parents who have some financial capacities tend to move their children from the more expensive private schools to other private ones that are less costly. However, with the current disappearance of the economic middle class in Lebanon, what will the poor people who became the major class of the country do? Do they have other choices except the public school despite all what has been said and what has been left unmentioned… for the time being?
public_schools.mp3 Public schools.mp3  (269.81 Ko)

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