BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Tuesday that cabinet is expected to convene "this week or early next week at the latest" to discuss "many emergency files," including the education sector, amid a persisting strike by public school teachers demanding improved salaries, according to the premier's Twitter account.
"We are in the process of preparing the education file related to the public school strike and the Lebanese University file, as well as receiving the required proposals from his excellency the Minister of Education in preparation for calling a third government session this week or early next week at the latest," Mikati tweeted. He added that "the session will also discuss many emergency files, which constitute an urgent priority and cannot be decided outside the cabinet."
Public school teachers — still on strike since Jan. 10 — renewed calls on Monday for a government meeting to address their demands for improved compensation and health coverage, along with contract revisions.
Mikati had promised a cabinet meeting this Thursday dedicated to education, however, the caretaker PM's media office on Saturday said none would be held.
"The holding of government sessions will become an absolute necessity," Mikati told L'Orient-Le Jour on Monday, affirming that he has made no political contacts with a view to a next session, in particular with Hezbollah.
"I haven't set an official date yet, pending the rector of the [Lebanese University], Bassam Badran, to give me a complete plan for the university," Mikati explained. LU is Lebanon's sole public university, with branches across the country. According to information obtained by L'Orient-Le Jour, the plan allegedly reached the Serail Monday afternoon. “I am stalling because I cannot afford to meet the demands of public school teachers without doing the same for their colleagues at LU," Mikati said. "Otherwise, the latter will also opt for a strike, which we want to avoid."
This pretext appears unconvincing for Education Minister Abbas Halabi, whom L'Orient-Le Jour could not reach Monday. “The Prime Minister had promised a ministerial session devoted to the education sector. And we have prepared all the required documents in view of a meeting which was to take place on Thursday," a source at the Education Ministry said on condition of anonymity.
Since May 2022, when Mikati's cabinet entered caretaking mode after the legislative elections, the government has convened twice. These sessions are boycotted by the Free Patriotic Movement which is accusing Mikati of assuming certain presidential powers while the country remains without a head of state since former president Michel Aoun's term ended Oct. 31.