Walid Hussein wrote in Al-Modon:
While the Ministry of Education was supposed to start paying the remaining dollar incentives for the previous months to teachers and employees (two hundred dollars for the months of December and second), next Monday, as previously pledged by the Minister of Education Abbas Al-Halabi, the incentives of one hundred dollars for the previous month of November have not yet reached A large number of professors. This is in addition to the hundreds of Ministry of Education employees who have not yet received such incentives. Their screams escalated amid warnings not to go to the ministry.
The $200 Challenge
The Ministry of Education started paying the incentives of one hundred dollars on the tenth of March, and it was supposed to be followed by paying the two hundred dollars next Monday, on the 20th of March. However, to date, not all teachers have received these incentives. This comes at a time when secondary and vocational education is still almost completely suspended, due to the teachers’ reluctance to teach.
The problem that the Ministry of Education will face is how to pay the two hundred dollars next Monday. According to informed sources, there is a challenge facing the Ministry of Education in this regard, despite all efforts to overcome obstacles. The matter is not only due to the existence of errors, which Al-Modon previously presented in the professors’ statements, but also to the existence of problems in financing incentives. Finance Minister Youssef Al-Khalil signed a request to open an account in favor of the Ministry of Education to transfer the value of the advance, which was approved by the Council of Ministers at a value of 1050 billion Lebanese pounds three days ago. It is an advance to pay the productivity allowance to teachers. This means that the sums allocated for the productivity allowance did not convert into dollars at an earlier time, as some tried to deceive teachers and teachers’ associations, to persuade them to return to education. These funds lost a large percentage of their value after the exchange rate of one dollar exceeded eighty thousand pounds. It was assumed that the value of this amount in dollars was about 25 million dollars, on an exchange dollar of about 40,000 pounds, but it has become less than half of its value, after an exchange dollar has become 80,000.
Risks of financing the $125 incentives
The sources add that even if the overdue incentives ($200) are paid starting next Monday, the danger lies in paying the incentives for the coming months, which al-Halabi promised, i.e. $125 per month. Until now, it is not yet known what percentage of these incentives the Lebanese state has pledged to pay, and those that will be paid by donor countries. Any failure of the government to pay the part related to it may at least affect the donor countries’ decision to support the Ministry of Education. The decision may be taken to withdraw the donor countries from paying their share as well.
Some of them hold the Minister of Finance responsible for his ministry’s delay in opening the account for the Ministry of Education, which led to the loss of half of the value of the productivity allowance funds approved by the government. The Minister of Finance, who assigned a committee to draw up a study costing about seven billion pounds to develop a vision on how to pay the productivity allowance to the public sector, endangered the remainder of the academic year, while the funds allocated by the government were earmarked to save him. The loss of half of the value of the incentives by the Ministry of Education in light of the high exchange rate of the dollar and the exchange rate means the inability to pay the incentives promised to teachers. Donor countries will not replace the Ministry of Education to pay incentives to teachers. All of this means returning to zero point in the issue of incentives, which took more than three months to be resolved, after its final form was reached, i.e. three hundred dollars for the previous months and $125 for the next four months. While Al-Halabi previously promised the teachers to pay 130 dollars for nine months.
The decision to compensate for the strike
Despite these financial problems, the Minister of Education decided to compel teachers to compensate for the days of previous strikes and to make education five days a week. The decision in itself added fuel to the teachers’ blazing fire not to go to schools. As for the exposure of the ministry’s inability to pay the incentives, it means eliminating any hope for the return of education, unless the government realizes the imminent danger, the sources say.
Away from this great dilemma, and at a time when high schools and vocational schools did not open their doors, or the matter was limited to partial education or administrative work, Minister Abbas Al-Halabi wants to intensify the lessons, as if he was able to re-teach in the first place. This prompted principals and teachers to ask whether officials in the Ministry of Education were submitting false reports about the status of high schools and schools, or if the minister himself knew the reality of the situation and lived in denial about the failure of the school year’s regularity plan.
Accordingly, the teachers’ protests will increase next week, which will witness the closure of more high schools that had returned and opened their doors for partial education or administrative work, as confirmed by teachers and directors of Al-Modon. The price of a can of gasoline exceeded two million pounds, and the teachers only received a promise to pay a transportation allowance equivalent to five liters of gasoline, and they do not know when it will reach them. Despite all the partisan pressures that took place in the regions against the teachers, education still stopped. This means that teachers do not have the financial means to return to teaching, even if they wish to do so.
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