"It is a pity that schools in Slovakia are not able to afford the necessary hardware and software to work with computers, multimedia, or Internet. It is so important that schools go with the new trend. In Germany, big companies understand this, as well as the fact that school children are their potential employees and customers."
Walter Sabiel, German language teacher
The current batch of Slovak students from elementary and secondary schools may find itself on the verge of technological doom over the next 15 years. While their counterparts on the western front will be armed to the teeth with heavy-caliber information technology weapons, Slovak work force recruits will be lucky to have seen a computer in the classroom.
Look into a typical Slovak school and it becomes evident that elementary schools and many secondary schools (especially outside Bratislava) are "computer-free" zones. The situation in Slovakia is similar to that in the west 15 years ago. The schools that do make computers available to students have only a few old machines running outdated software that is more trouble to learn than it is worth.
"It is a pity that schools in Slovakia are not able to afford the necessary hardware and software to work with computers, multimedia, or Internet," said Walter Sabiel, a language teacher from Germany who teaches German in Levoča and Spišská Nová Ves secondary schools.
"It is so important that schools go with the new trend. In Germany, big companies understand this, as well as the fact that school children are their potential employees and customers. In cooperation with the state, they help schools in securing the proper equipment and programs."
Computer literacy will separate the "haves" from the "have-nots" of society in the new millennium. That's why Matúš Staudt, a junior year student at Mother Alexia's Secondary School in Bratislava, can be considered one of the fortunate ones. Though not exposed to computers in elementary school, he has the opportunity to become computer-literate before entering the work force.
"We have 12 computers at school," he said, "all PC 386's running the old version of Windows. I am rather excited because there is talk of new Pentium 120's with Windows 95 being introduced. We get 2 hours a week of actual class time with the computers and are allowed to use them when the teachers are there, but you have to show up very early in the morning because so many students want to use them."
Matúš now works on a computer at home. Although it was a gift from his family, he has had to contribute financially to the cost by working evenings and weekend mornings at a bakery. Having learned the Windows 95 operating system, Matúš is now teaching himself several programming languages.
His story is unheard of in the west, where children are introduced to computers in elementary school, even in preschool, and often amaze teachers with their ability to become computer literate in a fraction of the time it takes adults.
Obviously, the problem is lack of money. Slovak schools can barely afford to pay their teachers - one of the lowest paid professions in Slovakia - let alone invest in technology for the classroom. The average gross wage of an elementary and secondary teacher is 7,000 Sk ($200)
As Sabiel pointed out, in the west large businesses and the state join forces in helping schools out. Sabiel also made a plea to the business community in Slovakia, asking them to get more involved by donating their old computers and software when upgrading. Anything not needed will surely be of great use.
Any businesses wishing to discuss possible solutions to this problem may contact Peter Floyd c/o The Slovak Spectator.
26. Feb 1998 at 0:00 | Peter Floyd