Maronite Church Warns of Religious Schools Closing Because of New Law

ICC Note: Lebanon has a new provision regarding salary grids for public sector workers which is having the unexpected consequence of forcing Catholic churches to close. The government is attempting to raise the wages of teachers. Fides estimates that at least 1/3 of all of Lebanon’s schools depend on churches, who warn that they are unable to compensate teachers at the new rate. As a result, these schools are beginning to close. Many of these schools cover material related to ecclesiastical subjects and training.  

03/21/2018 Lebanon (Fides) – The crisis of private schools triggered by the government’s provision of new “salary grids” for public sector workers is beginning to have difficult reversible effects: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai announced that the patriarchal office of Bkerke is beginning to receive messages that communicate the closure of private schools in rural areas and in urban suburbs. Other schools – added the Maronite Patriarch during the Mass celebrated on Sunday 18 March – have informed the families of their students of the impossibility to continue their educational mission if there are no governmental interventions aimed at tackling the emergency, and if the amendment regarding the necessary funds to finance the adjustment of salaries to new salary grids is not included in the national budget for the year 2018, that should be reserved for private schools.

During the homily, the Primate of the Maronite Church stressed that even non-state schools carry out a public service, and the adjustment of salaries of the teaching and administrative staff to new salary grids cannot be a burden for families, if one does not want to transform the network of private schools into “schools for rich people only”, radically contradicting the physiognomy and the spirit with which the majority of them were born. The Patriarch also stressed that requests for support to the government are supported by schools of both Christian and Islamic inspiration, gathered under the banner of the Federation of educational institutions.

The salary increases imposed by new government regulations, which came into force last August, immediately emerged as a major problem for the financial sustainability of the entire reality of Lebanese private schools. As reported by Fides (see Fides 7/9/2017), the Maronite Bishops already in early September had asked the government to examine the criteria regarding the increase of salaries according to the salary grid, or otherwise it has to take charge of the costs expected to also finance a salary increase for private school teachers, mostly related to ecclesial subjects, which welcome more than two thirds of Lebanese students.

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