Public Education in Lebanon, the light at the end of the tunnel?

Since the first few years of independence and up till now, we’ve been relentlessly recycling the “Lebanese crisis”. The civil war (civil in form and geography, but regional with its protagonists, causes and consequences) ended abruptly without a solution, it ended with an aesthetic exit partly because the militias got bored and lost the ecstasy of absurd fighting, and mainly because the regional and international conditions were ripe to move into another era of middle eastern geopolitics.

However, the main causes of the civil war, its ramifications, its residues, and the predominant mentality that governed that absurd epoch of the modern Lebanese history, they have all survived into our present time and they have gained momentum. Needless to say that what we’ve witnessed in the last seven years is a conspicuous proof that the Lebanese existential crisis is strongly alive as it has been, 20, 30, or 50 years earlier. Seven decades of history in the life of the Lebanese republic, and events that stand as a lesson to change and move ahead did not succeed in changing anything, anything at all, on the Lebanese socio-political scene.

We are all well aware of the nature of the Lebanese political system, the sectarian democracy with all its vices and few advantages; and we are all well aware of the Lebanese society and the main processes and mentalities dictating the social and political behavior and/or choices of the Lebanese people. The easiest and shortest way to diagnose the Lebanese problem is to blame the religious mosaic or fragmentation(if we want to choose a more realistic term) of the Lebanese society for being the main cause behind the major failure in constructing a modern, stable and viable state in Lebanon, but this view just scratches the surface.
Sectarianism is a concept, a behavior, a set of prejudices and ideas lived and practiced in the daily lives of the Lebanese people. It’s neither an independent organism nor a physical enemy; it’s within us, within our heads. No one is sectarian by birth, it’s something acquired and learned, consciously and subconsciously; and the solution against it, is to unlearn it and to stop teaching it.

And that’s where a reform in the Lebanese educational system can come to play a capital role to end the chronic and detrimental effects of sectarian xenophobism dominating the Lebanese socio-political scene.
The public school in Lebanon is weak, inadequate on both the infrastructure level and competency of the teaching staff level. While the private and, in most cases, religiously affiliated school thrives, the public school is neglected and left as the only cheap option for families living in the vicinity of the poverty line. The direct consequences of this reality is that the majority of the Lebanese students are brought up each group in its respective religious clan, in private schools supported and managed directly by religious institutions, whether Muslim or Christian. These schools implant in the heads of their students a set of convictions and ideals that are proper to each sect’s hard-line socio-political views and very often these views are blatantly contradicting national values, ideals and interest.

This has to stop! It has to stop because these hard-line views are mostly social and traditional projections on religion and they’re far from the core of the religious teachings; and because the amount of intolerance they create is poisonous to the Lebanese society.
These private schools played an important role during the ottoman rule (that destroyed and banned schools in the Levant for centuries) and during the French mandate rule but now it’s time for them to step aside. It’s time for us to put the significant amount of money poured into the private educational system into a regenerated public school that teaches the same ideals to all the Lebanese kids, and creates a coherent social fabric where they can all meet, bring their differences, live them, accept them, and respect them from a young age. The educational islands which the private schools are, are the opposite of this mentality, they create the total opposite and implement the social fragmentation based on sects and religion through the physical separation they make between Lebanese of different sects, and through their teachings that differ astronomically; and they end up injecting into the Lebanese society citizens with political and social convictions that are impossible to reconcile, and this problem is the mother of our all woes.

The public school is a necessity in a country like Lebanon, it’s the only fusion lab that can allow the Lebanese to see each other and learn about each other while they’re growing up and before cementing convictions and ideas, that are very often swollen with prejudice, about each other. The current neglection of the public school should end and it should be given a top priority without any delay.


Anonymous said…
yes you are very right. couldn't agree more!

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