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Thousands of teachers protest in Bratislava

Around 4,000 school employees filled Trnavské Mýto square in Bratislava on Monday, November 26, as part of the nation-wide teachers strike that began earlier in the day.

Around 4,000 school employees filled Trnavské Mýto square in Bratislava on Monday, November 26, as part of the nation-wide teachers strike that began earlier in the day.

"We want to say a decisive 'no' to the desperate situation in education. It's a test of courage and resolution that we're taking before the government, the public, our pupils and parents, but mainly before ourselves," teachers trade union boss Pavel Ondek said in his speech. He reiterated that teachers are insisting on a 10-percent salary hike for both teachers and non-teaching staff at schools.

The protestors were holding banners with slogans such as: 'We're chipping in for Greece but don't have [money] for education', 'Saving on education means not giving a damn about the future', among others. "We've been constantly tightening our belts, but our trousers are falling down," said Miroslav Kováč, head of the teachers’ trade union in Nitra, told the TASR newswire.

While Education Minister Dušan Čaplovič views the demands of teachers and non-teaching school personnel as understandable and respects their right to strike, the state offer to raise their salaries by 5 percent is the most that the budget can withstand, ministry spokesman Michal Kaliňák said.

Ondek said after a rally of the sector's employees in Bratislava they would meet the minister on Tuesday instead of Monday as originally scheduled. Meanwhile, he reiterated that the union insists on a 10-percent salary increase.

Some students also came to support their teachers, the SITA newswire wrote; among them students from the bilingual secondary school in Metodova Street in Bratislava, who carried banners saying "Poor education system = stupid nation" or "A poor meal will not feed you, poor education will not educate
you".

Over the weekend, Dušan Čaplovič, Finance Minister Peter Kažimír and Prime Minister Robert Fico claimed that they would agree to a bigger increase only if teachers agreed to layoffs, the Sme daily wrote. They say that the number of students per one teacher is “luxuriously low”, but statistics show that there are more pupils per teacher than in most EU countries. Čaplovič told the TA3 news channel that Slovakia had the smallest classes in the world with about 11 students per teacher. In fact, the country places 7th in Europe in the ranking of biggest classes, with 14.8 students per teacher.

Sme wrote in its Tuesday, November 27, issue that in Košice, about 2,500 teachers took part in the strike; while in Banská Bystrica, they numbered 2,000. It has not been decided for how long the strike will continue, nor what the strategy will be if it fails and no salary hikes are agreed upon.

(Source: TASR, SITA, Sme)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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