Tens of thousands of students take exams in Lebanon, including Syrians and Palestinians

The exams were printed, copied immediately and distributed to the centers under security escort. (Supplied)
The exams were printed, copied immediately and distributed to the centers under security escort. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 July 2023
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Tens of thousands of students take exams in Lebanon, including Syrians and Palestinians

The exams were printed, copied immediately and distributed to the centers under security escort. (Supplied)
  • Public school students protest ‘injustice’ of exams, having received fewer than 40 days of education amid teachers’ strikes

LEBANON: More than 43,000 students in Lebanon — including the children of Syrian and Palestinian refugees — sat the official exams for the baccalaureate certificate.

The participation rate exceeded 97 percent on the first day, and the exams — covering general sciences, life sciences, economics, sociology and humanities — will continue until Thursday.

The Ministry of Education described the successful completion of the first day of exams as “an achievement” in light of the collapse of the country and its education sector.

The first day witnessed a shortage of observers in some of the 236 centers across Lebanon.

FASTFACT

Lebanon’s Ministry of Education described the successful completion of the first day of exams as ‘an achievement’ in light of the collapse of the country and its education sector.

This shortage was compensated for by reducing the number of observers to only one in some examination halls in the Mount Lebanon centers and by using surveillance cameras.

Arab News toured some of the examination centers in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, witnessing cases in which there was a delayed delivery of exam papers.

It was reported that unknown persons cut the cables of surveillance cameras in centers in the Bekaa region.

Exams were also delayed at some centers in North Lebanon because of power cuts.

To prevent exam questions from leaking, committees prepared them at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education on Monday morning.

The heads of the subject committees were asked to hand over their phones before entering the examination hall, and security agencies used a device to jam sound waves around the ministry to ensure that the questions were not leaked.

The exams were printed, copied immediately and distributed to the centers under security escort.

Students and observers received their admission cards just a few days before the exams to prevent cheating.

While some students talked about the leniency of the supervisors, others said that the questions were easy.

Lama, a student in life sciences and economics, said: “The questions were very easy, and we did not feel stressed because the observers were not strict with us.

They allowed us to ask questions, but they definitely did not allow any cheating. Of course, they also did not allow us to bring our mobile phones into the examination hall.”

Rabei, a student in general sciences, said: “The math questions were not easy, but they could be answered by those who studied well.

“Those of us who are taking the official exams this year were exempted from taking the intermediate certificate exam three years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we may have underestimated the official exams.

But now, I am more confident in myself, and there are still two more days of exams with a day of rest in between, and hopefully everything will go well.”

The academic year in Lebanon has been marred by setbacks due to continuous strikes by teachers in the public education sector to protest the collapse of the value of their salaries.

Public school students received fewer than 40 days of intensive education, while private school students had a relatively stable academic year.

As a result, a group of young people belonging to the Lebanese Student Union staged a protest when Education Minister Abbas Halabi visited an examination center at Shakib Arslan School in the Verdun neighborhood of Beirut.

They intercepted his car, shouted insults and attempted to throw stones at the car.

The young protesters received applause from bystanders and residents.

One protester said that political authorities were turning education into a privilege rather than a right for all students, saying: “There are students who have completed 70 percent of the curriculum, while there are public school students who have only completed 30 percent of it.”

Another protester said that the minister had announced there would be no second chance for students who did not pass exams, which he described as “a great injustice.”

He said: “We will follow the minister wherever he goes during the exams so that history will witness that there were students who struggled for education to be a right and not a privilege."

During his visit to examination centers, the minister asked students whether the curriculum they had studied had sufficiently prepared them to answer exam questions.

According to the minister’s office, the students responded that “the exams were reasonable.”

Halabi acknowledged that students objected to the exams because they believed they were unfair as some public high schools had not completed the curriculum.

“However, we took this into consideration when designing the exam questions. Had it not been for the determination of the Ministry of Education and the concerted efforts to make this process a success, these exams would not have taken place,” he said.

The Ministry of Education reduced the number of subjects tested on the exam and made some subjects optional in order to be fair to students, said Albert Chamoun, adviser to the minister.

 

 


No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says

No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says
Updated 5 sec ago
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No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says

No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says
BEIRUT: The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has no “plan B” past March should donor countries that withheld funding following Israeli allegations uphold their suspensions, the head of its Lebanon office said on Thursday.
Israel accused 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in the Gaza Strip of taking part in the Hamas-led assault on Israel last year. The claims came after years of Israeli calls for the agency to be disbanded, and as Gazans face widespread hunger and only a trickle of aid into the bombarded strip.
Sixteen countries suspended funding pending an investigation by the UN’s oversight office that Lebanon chief Dorothee Klaus said would be ready in a few weeks.
“We hope that as many donors as possible indicate to the agency that they are reconsidering the funding freeze, and that funding will be restored to the agency, hopefully in such a way that we don’t have a cash flow issue, and services continue uninterrupted,” she said.
“We do not have a plan B.”
Already, her office may not be able to finance its quarterly cash distribution to 65 percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
“This will be the first indicator to the community that UNRWA is cash-strapped, and this would be the first service that we will not be able to provide in quarter one,” Klaus said.
While UNRWA has faced cash crunches before, the collective suspension has prompted an unprecedented crisis and it would be wrong to think other agencies could fill the gap, she said.
In Lebanon, UNRWA manages 12 camps for refugees, providing services from health care and schooling to garbage collection. If funding dries up, within a couple of days there would be trash filling camp streets, Klaus said.
Israel’s allegations have also prompted a separate review process by UNRWA that she said would examine safeguards protecting its neutrality and independence.
Asked if that would involve an examination of possible affiliations to armed groups of UNRWA staff in Lebanon’s camps, Klaus said she expected her branch would be consulted.

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Updated 22 February 2024
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Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Ships that are wholly or partially owned by Israeli individuals or entities and Israel-flagged vessels are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, said statements from an agency controlled by Yemen’s Houthi group seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The statements, sent to shipping insurers and firms from the Houthi’s Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center, also said ships owned by US or British individuals or entities, or sailing under their flags, are also banned.

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
Updated 22 February 2024
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Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
  • ‘Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship’

The International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, on Thursday continued its hearing from dozens of states and three international organizations who question the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from countries including China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya were expected to deliver their positions during the third day of the hearing at the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

Speakers from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, with the Kingdom’s envoy to the Netherlands Ziad Al-Atiyah stating Israel’s continued actions were legally indefensible.

Ahmad Ziadat, Minister of Justice of Jordan, center, and Ayman Safadi, right, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, at the International Court of Justice hearing in The Hague. (ANP/AFP)

Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said that “Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship by banning Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and not protecting priests from humiliation and abuse from Israeli extremists.”

Safadi said that the “occupation was unlawful, inhumane and it must end.”

“Israel has been systematically consolidating the occupation, denying the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.”

Safadi closed his remarks, saying “Palestinians are being killed in the hundreds every day in Gaza and in the West Bank because Israel is not being held accountable for its war crimes and violation of international law… rule that the Israel occupation, the source of all evil, must end.”

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, center, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. (ANP/AFP)

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, called on the ICJ to stop the “systematic killing machine” against the Palestinian people and the end of “mass murder” and “genocide.”

Al-Barrak talked of Israel’s “barbaric acts”, including “air strikes and rocket attacks targeting civilians.”

“These acts constitute war crimes executed with a criminal intent” and are serious violations of the laws of war, the Iraqi representative said, and added that Israel “must be held accountable”.

Reza Najafi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs. (ANP/AFP)

The Iranian representative said the Israeli occupation force continuously violated Palestinians right to self-determination.

“The establishment of the Israeli regime was done through a violent process which involved the forcible displacement of native Palestinian people to create a majority Jewish colony in line with the Zionist movement,” Reza Najafi, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs said.

Najafi listed a series of supposed ongoing violations by the Israeli occupying regime: prolonged occupation; alteration of the demographic composition in the occupied territories; alteration of the character and the status of the Holy City; discriminatory measures and violations of the rights of Palestinian people to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.

Najafi added that “the expansion of settlements, segregated roads and barriers as well as checkpoints has created a system of apartheid which is isolating Palestinian communities.”In his closing remarks, Najafi said “the inaction or insufficient action of the Security Council” was one of the “main causes of prolonged occupation of the Palestinians,” and it was “paralysed due to the stalemate” caused by a “certain permanent member.”

Ma Xinmin, a foreign ministry legal adviser, meanwhile said Beijing “has consistently supported the just cause of the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate right”.

“In pursuit of the right to self-determination”, he mentioned, the Palestinian people’s use of force to “resist foreign oppression” and complete the establishment of an independent state is an “inalienable right”.


Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies
Updated 22 February 2024
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Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

DUBAI: A missile attack Thursday targeted a vessel transiting the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire on board, two maritime agencies said, the latest in a flurry of strikes disrupting global shipping.

“A vessel was attacked by two missiles, resulting in a fire onboard,” the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said, adding that “coalition forces are responding.”

Security firm Ambrey also reported a fire aboard a Palau-flagged, British-owned general cargo ship following two missile strikes southeast of Yemen’s Aden.

The ship “appeared to be headed from Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and headed in the direction of the Red Sea,” Ambrey said.

“Merchant shipping is advised to stay clear of the vessel and proceed with caution,” it added.

There was no immediate claim for the attack but it follows a series of strikes on commercial vessels by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis say the attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

The strikes have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.


Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
Updated 22 February 2024
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Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
  • Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship, was damaged in Sunday’s Houthi missile strike

DUBAI: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels remains afloat and could be towed to Djibouti this week, its operator said on Thursday.
Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in Sunday’s missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had claimed on Monday the attack on the ship, saying it was “at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden” after receiving “extensive damage.”
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
“She will be towed to Djibouti but the tugboat has not yet arrived,” Khoury said. “It should be there in two to three days.”
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury said there was “no risk for now but always a possibility.”
Ship-tracking site TankerTrackers.com confirmed that the Rubymar had not sunk but warned that the vessel was leaking fuel oil.
The attack on the Rubymar has inflicted the most significant damage yet to a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said the ship’s last port of call was the United Arab Emirates and it was destined for Belarus.
Its 24 crew members included 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians and four Filipinos, the authority said in a statement on Monday.
“The vessel has on board 21,999 MT (metric tons) of fertilizer IMDG class 5.1,” the authority said on X, formerly Twitter, describing it as “very dangerous.”
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.