BEIRUT — Private school teachers in Lebanon elected on Sunday a new president for their union. Nehme Mahfoud, who has already held this position for three terms, received more than 2,200 votes, against Louna Smour who obtained only 168 votes.
The list chaired by Mahfoud, called "The Union Resilience," also won the twelve seats reserved for members of the Union Council.
After failing in the 2017 union elections against Rodolphe Abboud, Mahfoud, a staunch teacher and unionist, had run unsuccessfully for the Greek Orthodox seat in North Lebanon II on the Future Movement list in the 2018 legislative elections.
"The union council is ready to work for the school year to continue, and to cooperate with the caretaker education minister in his efforts to save education," Mahfoud said after his election, as reported by the state-run National News Agency. For his part, caretaker Minister Abbas Halabi assured that he will work closely with the union to save the education sector, "despite the challenges." Mahfoud and Halabi will meet soon to follow up on this issue, according to the NNA.
A low turnout was noted in this union election, as the education sector is heavily impacted by several crises in Lebanon.
"Many teachers did not go to the voting centers, far from their homes, because of the soaring fuel prices. They have no hope for change, as we have been demanding in vain, for three years, an increase in our salaries and an improvement in our working conditions," said Marleine Rizk, a teacher in a private school in Metn, to L'Orient-Le Jour. "But we must continue to fight, we must not let the crisis impact students at a time when more and more teachers are deserting this profession," she added, stressing the need for the authorities to "respond to the demands of teachers before it is too late."