Lebanon News

Students hold protest as LU professors’ strike drags on

Teachers protest in Beirut, May 20, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Over a hundred Lebanese University students Wednesday protested the ongoing professors’ strike for fear it would affect the rest of their semester.

Lecturers at the LU, the country’s only public university, have been striking for around three weeks to protest the university’s allocation in the 2019 draft state budget.

At the protest, the head of the Amal Movement’s student division called on the lecturers to end the strike and return to teaching immediately so as not to waste the semester, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Students were seen on television holding signs calling on the teachers not to harm them with their strike.

The head of the League of Lebanese University Full-Time Professors Youssef Daher told The Daily Star that the strike would continue. However, he assured the students that none of them would have to repeat the year as a result of missed examinations.

“Regarding the students, we will compensate for what they missed. ... If the strike doesn’t end soon, we will teach in July and August. We’ve done that in previous strikes,” he said.

One of the professors’ demands, Daher said, was to have contracted lecturers become full-time staff.

If they weren’t granted full-time status, he said they would leave for better offers elsewhere.

Since the number of full-time professors would also gradually decrease as they retired, Daher said the lecturers worried about the future of the university.

While Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has said the university’s budget was left untouched, Daher said the professors were asking for the university’s allocations to be doubled to fund “equipping laboratories, fast internet, grants and financial aid for students,” among other demands for the university’s around 85,000 students.

“Investment is not only in [the] CEDRE [conference]. ... This is the real economy. ... When they want a budget, they must invest in people’s minds and education,” Daher said.

The budget was endorsed by Cabinet Monday; it now goes before Parliament.

A student at the faculty of agronomy who attended Wednesday’s protest said the professors stopped teaching during their exam period, while many of his friends still had not taken their exams.

“I am with the [professors’] strike, because this is the only way the teachers can get what they are asking for,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous.

The student said a few of the protestors pitched two tents at the university’s Hadath campus. A business student also voiced support for the lecturers’ protest, saying, “Even if we miss the year, nothing will change [for the students].”

Daher said it would be up to the league’s executive committee to decide whether it would continue the strike if the university’s budget was not increased during Parliament’s review of the budget.

Earlier Wednesday, contracted lecturers also held a sit-in outside the Lebanese University central administration in Beirut, demanding to become full-time employees. Members of the league’s executive committee joined the protest in solidarity.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2019, on page 2.

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