School's out: Teachers flee Lebanese crisis

Sorbonne-educated Chryssoula Fayad taught history and geography at Lebanon's elite French schools, heading departments.

Now she is a substitute teacher in Paris, part of an exodus that has brought Lebanon's education system to its knees.

Fayad left behind her home and life savings last August, at 50 years old.

Days earlier, the hospital where her husband worked and his clinic were damaged by the Beirut port blast.

With a financial crisis, worsened by the explosion, pushing more than half of Lebanese into poverty, Fayad feels lucky she was able to leave.

"I'm convinced it was the right decision because I can't see how today Lebanon can come back to life in the near future. So as far as I'm concerned, yes, it was the best decision, even though it's not easy for someone who is 50 years old to decide to start over."

Lebanon's currency has plunged in value by more than 90% in less than two years because of corruption and political wrangling.

So a teacher who used to earn the minimum salary, equivalent to $1,000 a month, now takes home just $90.

Some better paid teachers were fired, to save money. Others, like Fayad, are leaving, or just staying at home rather than pay for childcare.

Rodolphe Abboud is head of a syndicate for teachers in private schools, which make up 70% of the sector.

"There is not one school now that isn't advertising for jobs, not one school I know that hasn't lost between 10 and 40 teachers who have left."

Lebanon's education system was prized throughout the Middle East, and was once ranked tenth globally by the World Economic Forum'S Competitiveness report.

This week the education ministry caved in to pressure from parents and staff and cancelled end-of-year exams.

This is Rene Karam, head of the English teachers' association:

"The minister wanted to conduct official exams - how did he not know that in Lebanon there is a shortage of paper and ink, and teachers can't work for free, and schools can't operate without fuel for electricity generators?"

With no end to the crisis in sight, many schools have no idea how they'll manage come next term.

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