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Lebanon: Thousands of Students Enroll in Public Schools over Dire Economic Situation

Lebanon: Thousands of Students Enroll in Public Schools over Dire Economic Situation

Saturday, 14 September, 2019 - 07:00
Syrian refugee children queue as they head towards their classroom at a school in Mount Lebanon, October 7, 2016. (Reuters)

More students were seen enrolling in public schools at the start of the new academic year in Lebanon due to the dire economic situation and the inability of parents to pay the fees of private educational institutions.

“A recent survey reveals that 12 percent of students moved this year from private to public schools because parents lack the finances to pay for private schools,” coordinator of the Union of Parents’ Committees in Lebanon, Abdo Gebrayel said.

Private school fees have reached unprecedented levels in the past few years mainly as a result of the government’s approval of a law to raise the salaries of teachers.

The average yearly fee of a private school is around $2,600, adding to that stationary, uniforms and books. Public schools are tuition-free until the intermediate level, while students pay less than $200 for higher levels.

Lebanon has 1,261 public schools. In the past years, only 30 percent of students were enrolled in such institutions.

However, a survey conducted by the Beirut-based research firm, Information International, said that 42.4 percent of students were enrolled in public schools in the 1974-1975 academic year (before the civil war in Lebanon). It reached its lowest of 29.5 percent in 2010-2011.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, 31 percent of students registered in public schools.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a few days after the Education Ministry announced the start of registrations at public schools, there was a high turnout at registrars across the country and not in a specific region.

The source said that in the Baysour complementary school, 700 students were registered while 1,007 remain on the waiting list.

“There is a priority for Lebanese students, while similar opportunities are given to Palestinian and Syrian students,” the sources at the Ministry said.

A mother, who chose to move her three kids to a public school, told Asharq Al-Awsat that she took the decision after the fees for one child reached around LL5 million (around $3,300).

“We can’t afford to pay this sum anymore, in addition to the cost of books, stationary and transportation, which reached $600 per child,” she said.

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