Minister of Education and Higher Learning Tarek Majzoub has excluded the children of Lebanese mothers married to foreigners from an issued directive on students allowed to enroll in public schools.
Lebanese schools are required to prioritise the enrolment of Lebanese students over foreign ones, but they have so far been legally prohibited from denying enrolment to a foreign student.
The lack of inclusion poses a threat towards the education of “non-Lebanese students,” which may cause a severe brain drain in the future. Lebanon is facing an emigration crisis as nationals seek opportunities abroad, and this will only further drain the country of its intellectual capacity.
Fadi Yarak, director general of the Ministry of Education, told the New Arab that no new decision to prohibit these children from enrolling in public schools has been taken and that “directives are issued gradually” every year. He also told the news platform that the inclusion of children of Lebanese mothers married to foreigners is guaranteed, saying “Everyone is welcome to register in the schools.”
On the ground, the “Lebanese Women’s Right to Nationality and Full Citizenship” campaign found that these children have not been allowed to register in public schools, citing mothers who say that schools are adding their names to waiting lists until “a decision is released by the ministry.”
The decision to disallow these children from pursuing education in Lebanese public schools began with former Minister Elias Bou Saab, according to the New Arab. Upon pressure from the campaign, former Education Minister Akram Chehayeb issued a new circular that requires the admission of children of Lebanese mothers and non-Lebanese fathers until the latest directive from Minister Tarek Majzoub excluded them once more.
The struggle of Lebanese women
Since the 1960s, the Lebanese nationality law has prevented women from passing on their citizenship to their children and husbands. In contrast, men are legally allowed to pass the citizenship to their wives and children after only one year of marriage.
The political class has so far denied women this right, arguing that such a law would shift the sectarian balance within Lebanon and pose a challenge to an already-fragile system.
Their arguments often pinpoint the issue to the large number of Lebanese women married to Palestinian men, despite a 2016 census finding just 3,707 cases where Palestinian men in Lebanon are married to women from a different nationality.
In allowing them to pass on their nationalities, politicians fear that “non-Lebanese” people will legally be allowed to settle in the country. For decades, women have sought to eradicate this law, achieving some milestones along the way.
The latest decision from Education Minister Majzoub reverts the hard work of women’s rights activists, treating Lebanese women as “second-class citizens.”
Refugees: Low wages, discrimination, and degradation
Syrian and Palestinian refugees form a very vulnerable minority in Lebanon. In 1990, the Lebanese constitution was amended to prevent the settlement of non-Lebanese people in Lebanon.
The constitution has yet to be amended since then, as all major political parties have adamantly opposed the naturalisation of refugees, including Hezboallah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and MP Gebran Bassil.
In particular, Bassil has openly expressed anti-Syrian sentiments for years. His father-in-law, President Michel Aoun seems to agree and has repeatedly called for their return to Syria despite the ongoing war.
This has acted as a barrier for refugees in the country ever since. The ruling class’ opposition to naturalisation coupled with vehement discrimination amongst members of the Lebanese population have created a toxic and difficult environment for refugees to flourish in.
Refugees earn significantly less than Lebanese employees, often making below the minimum wage of 675,000 LBP. According to a study funded by the European Union, half of the Palestinian refugee population earns less than 500,000 LBP per month.
With the current economic and financial crisis, these wages are barely enough to maintain their livelihood, while the Beirut blast left many homeless and in need of aid.
Waging a war on women’s rights
In leaving out the children of Lebanese women and foreign men, the Lebanese state has declared itself an enemy of both women and refugees. The “technocratic” government has so far proved itself incapable of fighting for gender equality: Earlier this year, they refused to subsidize the price of feminine hygiene products in favour of subsidizing the price of men’s razors.
Now, they openly declare that they do not support Lebanese mothers and their children’s right to an education. The ruling class seems to only favour draining the country of its citizens rather than working on providing them with decent living conditions.