The aim of Pope Francis' gesture was to push other benefactors to support Catholic schools. 80% of them risk not opening their doors for the next school year. There are two problems: an unsustainable increase in wages and the fall in state subsidies. The distribution of scholarships is managed by the nunciature in Lebanon.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The 400 scholarships (200 thousand dollars) that Pope Francis donated for children in Lebanon are a drop in the ocean, according to many leading figures in the academic world. They specify that this "tangible sign of proximity" will be distributed preferably to poor children, who attend "semi-state" primary schools, those subsidized by the State and managed by the Catholic Church.
These are special schools that have not received any subsidies from the state in the past three years. In theory, these schools should receive an average annual grant of 800 thousand Lebanese pounds, about 50% of the cost of the child's schooling; the other half is insured by parents. On the national territory there are a total of 640 schools of this type; their students come from urban and rural areas of limited resources.
It must be said that in continuity with the gift from the Holy See and behind this example, the apostolic nunciature in Lebanon offered another 100 scholarships from the Isabelle Tyan Fund for education, administered by the nunciature. Other benefactors have indicated their willingness to contribute to the Pope's initiative, confirming the knock-on effect that the pontiff hoped to give rise to with his gesture.
State of urgency
A state of urgency has been declared in academic circles, especially after the recent statement by the secretary general of Catholic schools, Fr. Boutros Azar. Days ago, he announced that most of the schools run by the Catholic congregations in Lebanon, that is, not less than 80% of them, are heading in an inevitable direction towards closure, due to the economic difficulties and state negligence.
"Because of this - Fr. Azar - these schools will not open their doors in the next year (2020-2021) ". Deprived of state grants, faced with enormous financial burdens due to wage increases in the public sector - which are also applied by law to teachers in private schools - these schools are now suffocating.
Rules have been established for the distribution of scholarships, for which the nunciature is responsible; there have also been contacts with religious congregations that run state-funded primary schools. A good source ensures that the criteria for the distribution of the scholarships are: 1) Each scholarship application must be addressed to the nunciature; 2) there is no discrimination on the religious or ethnic grounds; 3) the grants will be distributed equally to boys and girls.