Parents, university and school students protest: Education is not a commodity

The two sides chanting for different demands came together with signs and speakers demanding “Education, freedom, and social equality.”
by Chiri Choukeir

23 August 2019 | 16:00

Source: by Annahar

  • by Chiri Choukeir
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 23 August 2019 | 16:00

This photo shows protesters at the entrance of the Ministry of Higher Education holding banners and demanding their rights. (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: Last month, tens of students were told that they failed their baccalaureate and brevet exams after the initial results were changed, drawing the ire of parents. 

After announcing the grades of the Second Exceptional Sessions of the Official Baccalaureate and Brevet Exams earlier this year, the results were retracted and published fifteen minutes later. The newly published results showed a number of students failing grades after initially passing.

Both parents and students have been protesting at the gates of the Ministry of Higher Education, demanding a recount, negotiations, or a statement of any kind regarding the falsely corrected papers.

Earlier yesterday, parents joined angry university students who were not informed of tuition currency change from Lebanese Pounds to U.S. dollars at their universities. The two sides chanting for different demands came together with signs and speakers demanding “Education, freedom, and social equality.”

One of the protesting parents, Viviane Seikaly, told Annahar how both her children applying for their official degrees were failed "on purpose."

“We’re here today to demand our rights. We have evidence of tampering and corruption in the exams, which we came forward with to the ministry. We’re not here to terrorize the Minister of Education. We’re just asking for our rights, the evidence is with the government, and we just hope they look into the files because this is our right,” she said.

Another mother from Akkar, Pepa Ramez, had been taking the bus from her hometown to Beirut every day for two weeks to get her appeal approval from the Ministry of Higher Education, which has been denying parents and students’ entry to the building.

“We asked Minister Akram Chehayeb and demanded that the exams be corrected again, he refused. We asked him to just appoint one person from his cabinet to come out of the ministry and explain to us what has happened, which was also rejected,” Ramez told Annahar.

As for the university students protesting the currency change, Farah Baba, one of the organizers of the protest from Mada, a political youth network, explained how this simple change will influence many students, and even halt their education due to a tuition increase.

“Since all people earn their checks in Lebanese Pounds, the exchange of LBP to USD will force the tuition to increase,” Baba told Annahar. “We want higher quality from the Ministry of Higher Education, the public sector and public schools are more than neglected. And because private institutions are private, the ministry gives them full freedom to do what they want with the tuition fees.”

With multiple flyers, banners, and posters from the AUB Secular Club, the two crowds chanted in a unanimous voice, “Free the education,” “Education is not a commodity” and “Riyad Salame is commercializing our education.”

Dany Rashid, President of the AUB Secular Club explained his concern about the situation after the university failed to announce beforehand their decision of changing their billing currency from LBP to USD.

"What if the exchange rate jumps from 1,500 LBP to 3,000 LBP?" Rashid told Annahar. "We want the Ministry of Higher education to interfere and not allow them to turn our education into a commodity. Stop these private institutions from doing that,” he added.     

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