What cost an education? Lebanese students fight fees hike

What cost an education? Lebanese students fight fees hike
As Lebanese universities spiked fees amid local currency plunge, many students, who risked being out of education, launched legal fight to pay fees at 1,500 Lebanese pounds/dollar rather than 3,900 pounds per greenback used by the universities. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 May 2021

What cost an education? Lebanese students fight fees hike

What cost an education? Lebanese students fight fees hike
  • Parents are paid in local currency, which has tumbled in value against the dollar due to Lebanon’s financial collapse
  • Students got together, vowed to act and mounted legal action in February to pay fees at the official rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds/dollar

BEIRUT: When the American University of Beirut (AUB) said the cost of study at Lebanon’s top school would more than double, 21-year-old Ali Slim felt his dream career in medicine might be over before it had even began.
Like most Lebanese, his parents are paid in local currency, which has tumbled in value against the dollar due to the country’s financial collapse, rendering them wholly unable to meet what is in effect a 160 percent tuition increase for their son.
The AUB has boosted financial aid for students, but it said the crisis had made the hike in fees unavoidable.
Another top school — the Lebanese American University (LAU) — soon followed suit, prompting fears that thousands of students like Slim could be priced out of private higher education in a country with only a single, under-funded, public alternative.
So the students got together and vowed to act.
Along with scores of fellow students, Slim mounted legal action in February to pay fees at the official rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds per dollar, rather than the semi-official rate of 3,900 pounds per greenback used by the universities.
“It’s not just a fight for education, it’s a fight for what’s right and to try to get the judicial system to protect the most vulnerable,” Slim told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When students began paying at the official rate, the AUB rejected their payments and said they would need to pay the new rate — or be dropped from class.
Students then filed two suits: one affirming their right to pay fees at the official exchange rate, the other asking for a stay on all payments until the first case is settled.
An urgent matters court ruled in their favor on the second case, saying the AUB could not exclude the students until there was a final ruling on whether their payment was legal.
The AUB’s office of communications said no students had left due to the hike and that more than 99 percent had paid their fees.
Education Minister Tarek Majzoub did not respond to a request for comment.
As other universities ponder similar hikes, the court’s ruling could have far-reaching implications for tens of thousands of students nationwide.
“We’re basically looking to secure a social safety net that protects students most at risk. That doesn’t exist right now,” said Jad Hani, a 20-year-old economics senior at the AUB.
Following the price hike, annual tuition fees for an arts or sciences degree have risen from about 35 million pounds to about 90 million pounds.
The minimum wage in Lebanon is 675,000 pounds per month, equivalent to 8.1 million pounds per year.
As the crisis decimates household incomes, an unusually large number of students appear to be opting for the publicly funded Lebanese University (LU) over private institutions – a change its president, Fouad Ayoub, linked to “economic factors.”
Some 5,000 students joined this year, after the price hikes were announced, he said, far more than its average intake and swelling the overall student body to 87,000.
The university cannot meet such demand, Ayoub said, since its budget is unchanged but its spending power has crashed in tandem with the local currency.
It has struggled to buy even the basics — lab supplies, electronics and books — as suppliers held off bidding on contracts for fear of the volatile exchange rate, Ayoub said.
“We are rationing the use of paper. The situation is very difficult,” he said.
The LU is not alone in being crippled by issues that are ultimately tied to the increasingly bankrupt Lebanese state.
The AUB said it was owed some $150 million by the state, making its dire situation still worse.
“AUB, like the rest of the country, is having to cope through a crisis not of its own making and without any support,” the university said in written comments.
Still, it has ramped up financial support leading to reductions in tuition costs, helping some 4,000 students — almost one in two — enrolled this academic year.
To ensure it can survive another 150 years, the institution said it had no choice but to up the exchange rate, insisting the new semi-official rate — used for transactions at commercial banks — was anyway still far below the volatile market rate.
With no end in sight to the country’s financial collapse, students said they felt compelled to help each other.
Razane Hishi, a 19-year-old software engineering junior at the AUB, said she chose to join the exchange rate legal fight out of solidarity, rather than need.
“It’s a moral obligation for me to help protect others that may need this now,” Hishi said. “If the trend keeps going, how are any of us supposed to afford an education in the future?”


US imposes fresh Syria-related sanctions: Treasury

US imposes fresh Syria-related sanctions: Treasury
Updated 52 min 56 sec ago

US imposes fresh Syria-related sanctions: Treasury

US imposes fresh Syria-related sanctions: Treasury

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed fresh Syria-related sanctions on several individuals and entities, according to the Treasury’s website, increasing pressure on President Bashar Assad’s government.
The United States blacklisted eight individuals and 10 entities in separate counterterrorism and Syria-related actions taken on Wednesday, including branches of the Syrian general and military intelligence, according to the website.


Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
Updated 28 July 2021

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
  • Japanese system develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination
  • Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October

CAIRO: The Japanese education system, Tokkatsu, continues to flourish in Egypt as the country had 48 schools that used the system during the last academic school year. 

These Egyptian-Japanese schools teach Egyptian curriculum in addition to the Japanese Tokkatsu educational system, which develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination.

Safwat Al-Jamai, an educationist, told Arab News the Tokkatsu method relies on activities that help the students with daily life, self-development, health, safety, and creativity.

“It encourages students to help with the management and planning of the activities, and there are cultural exchange programs for different age groups within the school,” Al-Jamai said.

“It also entails activities that develop a sense of belonging and solidarity toward others and working for the public interest through practical activities carried out by students."

These activities, according to Al-Jamai, transform the role of the teacher into that of a facilitator. They no longer merely teach facts and concepts leading students to a right-or-wrong answer, but rather facilitate social and emotional learning for the student through trial and error in an individual or group environment.

The activities also enable the development of the personal and social skills needed when students enter the real world, and it requires them to share tasks, set rules, experience leadership as well as follow rules and adhere to order.

Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October. One of them is in Sharm El-Sheikh, which was inaugurated by the Egyptian Minister of Education, Tariq Shawky, and the Governor of South Sinai, Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda, last March.

The Egyptian-Japanese School in Sharm El-Sheikh is located near King Salman University and consists of 28 classrooms from kindergarten to secondary school. It is the second such school in the governorate after another that was established in Tur Sinai in October 2018.

The Egyptian-Japanese School finished conducting personal interviews for students initially accepted to the school for the academic year 2021-2022. Prospective students applied to enroll in the school through the school's website, under the supervision of the Egyptian-Japanese Schools Administration Unit at the Ministry of Education.

They canceled paper submissions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions. 

The admission process for students included a personal interview with parents, submission of supporting documents with the application, a math test, and a cognitive skills test for the child. Personal interviews were also conducted for students applying for kindergarten.

Mahmoud Abdel-Aal, director of the Egyptian-Japanese School, said interview results will be announced after they are completed in all schools nationwide.


Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
Updated 28 July 2021

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said he hoped to form a government in the "near future"

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees.
Mikati, a businessman, is the third potential prime minister to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion in Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city. He spoke to reporters after meeting Aoun.
Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
"I gave my proposals, President Aoun approved most of them and he made some remarks which are acceptable; God willing ... we will be able to form a government soon," Mikati said.
Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty.
Like the previous nominee, Saad Al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states. 


UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors
Updated 28 July 2021

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors
  • All doctors licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies can apply for the golden visa between July 2021 to September 2022

DUBAI: The UAE has started to grant golden visas to doctors in what the government described as “recognition of their efforts and sacrifices and being the frontline heroes.”

The golden visa will grant doctors and their families a 10-year residency, ensuring stability in their jobs and livelihood in the UAE as well as the development of the health care sector.

“This initiative promotes a motivational work environment and high-quality living standards by attracting and retaining the top talents in the medical field, and providing opportunities for medical staff to work and reside in the UAE,” a report from state news agency WAM said.

All doctors licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies can apply for the golden visa between July 2021 to September 2022 online through smartservices.ica.gov.ae.

Dubai-licensed doctors meanwhile may apply via smart.gdrfad.gov.ae.

Seven offices across the Emirates affiliated with the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will accept applications from doctors who wish to apply for the golden visa personally.


Daesh attack kills seven Syrian troops: Monitor

Daesh attack kills seven Syrian troops: Monitor
Updated 28 July 2021

Daesh attack kills seven Syrian troops: Monitor

Daesh attack kills seven Syrian troops: Monitor

BERLIN: Daesh group militants killed at least seven soldiers and militiamen in eastern Syria on Wednesday, the latest in a series of deadly attacks, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Several government positions came under attack in a desert area of Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Several troops were also wounded, some of them critically, while five militants were also killed.
A Kurdish-led offensive overran the last patch of Daesh-held territory in Syria in March 2019 but sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in the vast desert that stretches from central Syria east to the Iraqi border.