Indignation of the pupil’s parents of the Grand Lycée Franco-Libanais
[Translated from: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ParentsGLFL]
I have the honour to address you as a parent of pupils of the Grand Lycée Franco-Libanais (GLFL).
Since the beginning of 2015, a conflict opposes us to the French Secular Mission (MLF) and the direction of GLFL. During a long adversarial process, some actions of the MLF have exceeded the limits of democratic debate, attaining a level unworthy of a French institution responsible for the education of thousands of students worldwide. Now that the conflict has subsided, we believe it is necessary for us to report such acts in order to maintain traceability and allow the appropriate conclusions to be drawn.
In early January, the Parents’ Committee of the GLFL (CDP-GLFL) refused to approve the budget of the GLFL and this on the basis of the powers given to it by the Lebanese law (Law 515). This decision is fully justified and thought through. In fact, did you know, for example, that:
- in six years, the average tuition fee at GLFL has doubled. It increased from 4.5 million LBP ($3,000) to 9,000,000 million LBP ($6,000), while the consumer price index rose by only 21% over the same period. The current tuition fee is 14 times the minimum wage in Lebanon!
- the budget of the GLFL submitted to the Ministry of Education in Lebanon does not represent the actual budget as consolidated by the MLF, and the GLFL generates revenues external to the budget, not declared to the Ministry, estimated at about $400,000 annually!
- the post of budgetary expenditure entitled “Owner Compensation”, ie the amounts transferred to the MLF which are therefore not allocated to the operation of GLFL, increased from $300,000 in 2010/2011 to $1.5 million in 2014/2015, an increase of 500% over five years!
- despite inflation close to 0% and a negligible increase in the number of pupils, the budget for the year 2014-2015 predicted an increase in operating costs of 30% compared to the operating costs of 2013-2014!
- MLF has refused to provide the accounting balance sheet for the year 2014/15 (actual expenditure), contrary to what is stipulated by Lebanese law.
- MLF has started work on a gigantic construction site. This is an investment of around $20 million, which directly affects the tuition paid by parents. However, parents must suffer this heavy burden without even being consulted.
We chose to put our children in the GLFL so they benefit from an education that emphasizes a critical and scientific spirit; an education that teaches our children how to argue to convince and how to demonstrate to conclude. An education favouring reason and reasoning. However, based on these principles and in these conditions of non-transparency and non-access to the real data of expenditure, how would you like the CDP-GLFL to approve the budget? Should it approve it blindly, with no convincing explanation, as the MLF has repeatedly asked for?
The requests of the CDP-GLFL are not limited only to the financial aspect. On the contrary, we presented to the MLF a series of basic proposals, covering the pedagogical and educational component (e.g.: implementation of a replacement system for absent teachers: classes remained without teachers for weeks, etc...).
Unfortunately, the downgrading in the rate of increase of tuition and commitment of the MLF to the application of part of our educational requests, have been acquired after a long and tedious legal process and the involvement of the special Court of justice which issued an emergency injunction.
Now that an agreement has been reached with the special Court of justice, it seems essential to assess the management of this conflict instigated by Mr. Deberre, Director General of the MLF.
- It must first be noted that on two occasions the MLF refused to implement the decision of the Lebanese Minister of Education, despite repeated reminders from the Lebanese authorities. Newspapers in Lebanon have pointed to these behaviours reminiscent of the time of colonialism, where an association spurns the decisions of the executive power. The MLF complied to this decision only after an emergency judgement of the special Court.
- The MLF and the direction of GLFL has used a variety of means of pressure in opposition to the position of the CDP: pressures on parents (refusal to issue the certificates for registration and end of year) on the pupils themselves (elementary school children have returned home in tears accusing their parents of wanting to close the school: a scandalous circular was distributed to pupils without an envelope), on teachers and staff (insinuations that the actions of the CDP would lead to the cancellation of their social rights), political pressures (MLF delegations visited the Lebanese Prime Minister and other senior judges and high magistrates). These actions seriously damage the image of France: are social conflicts resolved in this manner in France?
- We must also focus on the content of the MLF releases distributed to the children and parents of the GLFL since June 2015. Here are some extracts:
* Upon signing the agreement, the MLF and the direction of the GLFL harassed parents through messages and communications calling them to pay the rest of the tuition fee, under the Agreement, in an extremely short time to the establishment’s cashier’s desk and in cash only, on pain of having their children expelled, instead of waiting for the publication of the figures for the first quarter (one month later).“From Monday, September 14 and if the parents have not paid the full amount of the debt, their children will not be admitted to classes!”
* “Do not compromise the education and the future of what you hold dearest in the world: your children!”
* “(Register your children) at an institution in line with (your) financial means.”
Aside from the fact that these communications clearly reject the historical GLFL principle of “social diversity”, they were perceived as direct threats to our children. Are we not in a situation of abuse of power over vulnerable people? Threatening our children with being excluded from classes, if parents do not pay within a few days, can this threat come from educators or teachers? The consequences of such acts will affect our children for life. This discriminatory attitude surprises us, especially since late payments are usually treated in a discreet, respectful manner, with an acceptable time scheme for payment. It is our duty to denounce this urgent request for payment accompanied by threats in stark contrast with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Republican principles to which the MLF must submit.
We hope we have clarified our position. We are also able to provide any supporting evidence to prove these claims.
Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.
Pupil’s parents of the GLFL.