Swedish owner of a Slovak school has not paid teachers for months

A legendary school in Kremnica, central Slovakia, is close to collapse.

The town of Kremnica is known for minting coins.The town of Kremnica is known for minting coins. (Source: Marko Erd, SME)

Teachers at two schools in Kremnica operated by Swedish Education Group have not received their paychecks since last year. Along with other school personnel, they are threatening to resign.

Swedish Education Group runs the Private School of Art Industry and the Private Gymnasium in the municipality of Kremnica, Banská Bystrica Region. Its founder's bank accounts are currently blocked as a result of a legal dispute with the regional government. Staff at the two schools are now essentially working for free for the third month in a row, the TASR newswire writes.

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“We waited to enforce the [legal order against the group] so as not to endanger the students at the schools. The [Banská Bystrica] region only proceeded with the enforcement after the founder himself threatened the teaching process by his irresponsible approach and by non-payment of his obligations, which resulted, for example, in the disconnection of the building from the energy supply and making face-to-face teaching impossible," said Banská Bystrica Self-Governing Region spokesperson Lenka Štepáneková. The founder, Swedish entrepreneur Kemel Benali, said that the region did not recognise the payment of rent as a form of investment in the leased property, as its contract stipulates.

There are only about 20 students attending the two schools, who are all learning online. Both schools occupy a building that lacks proper heating because it was disconnected from the power grid after the founder failed to pay the electricity bills.

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The Pravda daily published an interview with one of the teachers affected, who said that some instructors had resigned at the end of February, while others are waiting till the end of March. “Those of us who are supposed to be with the students at the written Maturita [school-leaving] exams will do so on March 16. We’re ending our employment contract immediately, without a two-month notice period, by reason of non-payment of wages,” teacher Juraj Cinkanič told Pravda.

Kremnica is known as the "golden centre" of Europe, for its its long history in the production of gold - and also because the town is located close to one of Europe’s supposed geographical centres. The town’s niche is minting coins; the town has had a working mint since the 14th century. The Private School of Art Industry is focused on sustaining the tradition of working with precious metals. The crafts practised by artistic engravers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, and designers are rooted in the town’s history and the school was intended to keep these traditions going.

So as to not endanger students, the regional government has prepared curriculums and research at a similarly orientated school to sustain their studies.

The Kremnica school was founded in 1966. Several well-known people studied here, including car designer Jozef Kabaň. The school had been run by the Banská Bystrica Region until 2011 when it was handed over to the private owner.

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