Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Kuwaiti politician pledges support for family of Lebanese man who self-immolated

Unable to pay his children’s school fees, a father of two died after setting himself on fire

George Zreik had been struggling to pay his daughter’s tuition since 2015. Twitter
George Zreik had been struggling to pay his daughter’s tuition since 2015. Twitter

A Kuwaiti politician donated $10,000 as well as a monthly allowance to the family of a Lebanese man who set himself on fire in his children’s schoolyard because of a fee dispute with the school.

“What happened saddened me. A man burned himself because of the pain and suffering caused by his children’s education,” Kuwaiti member of Parliament Khalaf Dumaitheer said during an interview on Saturday with Lebanese TV station Al Jadeed.

“That’s why I decided to make a donation as well as a monthly allowance for the children,” he added, without detailing the amount of the allowance.

George Zreik set himself on fire on Thursday after dousing his body with gasoline in Bkeftine, in the North of Lebanon. According to local media, his body suffered 90 per cent burns.

The state-run National News Agency reported that Mr Zreik killed himself because the private school refused to give him the required paperwork to transfer his daughter to another school as he had not paid her tuition fees.

The school defended itself in a statement, arguing that despite Mr Zreik’s inability to pay his two children’s tuition fees since 2015 – except for transport and stationery fees as well as extra-curricular activities – it had not threatened to expel them. However, it did not clarify whether it had refused Mr Zreik the required paperwork or not.

Most of the Lebanese political class expressed their outrage at the tragedy.

“What disgrace is this on those who lack conscience, morality and humanity? This is a murder, not a suicide,” tweeted former Justice Minister Achraf Rifi.

“What wretched times…We are all responsible”, tweeted MP Neemat Ephrem. A picture of Mr Zreik holding his young daughter in his arms as she kisses his cheek has been widely circulated by Lebanese media outlets.

In a statement issued on Friday, Minister of Education Akram Chehayeb said he would open an investigation into Mr Zreik’s death and allow his children to complete their education free of charge.

“This year, the Ministry has been absorbing thousands of students into public schools. They transferred from private education because of difficult economic circumstances”, he wrote.

Despite the cost, most Lebanese families prefer sending their children to private schools. Public schools have a poor reputation.

Living conditions have worsened these past few years for the Lebanese who struggle with high living costs and low employment prospects.

Updated: February 10, 2019 08:45 PM