Indrė Makaraitytė. This government deserves a strike. As do the Conservatives

Indrė Makaraitytė
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

The striking teachers have the support of other professions, even a reshuffling among the teachers’ unions occurred – the unions that are not on strike are being abandoned by teachers from the large schools, who are joining those, who remain at the Ministry of Education and Science.

Everyone including the Parents’ Forum probably know that the most to blame here is the minister of education and science, who was, first of all, so arrogant that she didn’t even enter dialogue with teachers. Secondly, it turns out she did not present real information to the prime minister.

The minister is neither bad, nor good. She is just the same as most of the professional specialists in the Skvernelis cabinet. A dutiful former teacher, who made a career because overall she did everything correctly in this system, thus she received an offer to become minister and even reform the education system.

However, a well-made presentation and talking with live people, rather than with numbers or an audience of bureaucrats, these are very different things.

“In general, we see a surplus of educators across Lithuania. Currently it is thought to be in excess of 6000,” the minister’s registered answers to her interpellation state.

You must be dismissed to be able to state this number.

Nonetheless, to write it down, not state it to the teachers, who are now sitting in and fighting for their rights in the ministry.

Throughout these two years, there hasn’t been a single time that a straight answer could be obtained from J. Petrauskienė, what her and the cabinet’s education reform vision is. Is the wage payment system change a reform already? Yes, it adjusts the payment of wages, increased wages a little and perhaps will a little more, however this does not change the core of our faltering education system.

The essence of why our education system is lagging so far behind was formulated exactly a year ago by the National Audit Office. Black on white and just a year ago.

The figure of students per teacher in Lithuania is among the lowest in the European Union. With the number of teachers not decreasing, the workload for each teacher declines and thus, their wage.

There are too many schools in Lithuania. A bloated infrastructure leads to the better part of education funding being spent on building maintenance. The number of students in rural and city schools’ classes differs nine fold.

Less than the EU average is spent on teachers’ wages, but there’s too many teachers and thus there is less funding left for teaching quality.

Adding all this together, we have among the worst results in the European Union – the achievements of Lithuanian students are particularly poor and not improving despite a 53% increase in education funding since 2006 and comprising more than half a billion euro in 2016.

The National Audit Office concluded that the achievements of Lithuanian students are below average. In most Lithuanian schools, the students’ education achievements are lower not only than the EU level, but even Lithuania’s level.

This is because the large, good Lithuanian schools located in region centres, not only Vilnius and Kaunas, cannot salvage the results of the very poor performing small schools, where the same teacher teaches fifth, sixth and seventh graders, with none of them learning anything.

But the funding for education is literally being used on air because empty schools renovated through EU funding are being heated.

This was what the National Audit Office Concluded.

Even beyond the audit office, do you not wonder, why the students of some Lithuanian schools win international competitions, achieve the best exam results and enter prestigious universities around the world, however a whole 40% of 12th graders fail the national exams in their final year?

What, were they born like this, inept, useless? Or perhaps it is simply that their schools are hopeless and ruin our children’s’ lives?

And perhaps there are many teachers, who regardless of how you respect them as people, should not work at school?

Because a good person is not a profession. Not anywhere, not even at school.

But let us return to the National Audit Office, whose reports are shelved because they are a record of our politicians’ ineptness and politicians do everything that the reports would not be taken off the shelves. The situation in the education sector, the chief national audit institution writes, is so tragic because, first of all, the municipalities sabotage any efforts to reform schools and the ministry does not have the powers to influence the municipalities’ plans for network reform.

Thus, we can all go ahead and bring sandwiches to the teachers, they will remain in the ministry building for a time yet. What does it really change, if a teacher gets 5 euro or 6 euro per hour when there are too many schools, especially in places, where there are no longer any people? Because especially where there are no people left, municipalities are headed by narrow-minded politicians, who only know one formula – give us money and we’ll know how to make use of it.

Closing hopeless schools and concentrating education processes in regional centres, where children would receive good educations and teachers – normal wages is something that municipal politicians do not want and their lobbyists in Seimas support this and are a wall, which has been beyond anyone to breach so far.

Could J. Petrauskienė have done anything differently?

She could have tried to put it into parents’ heads over those two years that there are too many schools in Lithuania and they must be closed to not ruin children and would not burden future generations with the incredible burden of supporting those on social welfare, who cannot make a living.

Just as was written in the National Audit Office report.

J. Petrauskienė could have toured Lithuania and explained to the parents of Lithuanian children that if they want better lives for their children, they should not be deceived. She could also have publicised the names of politicians, who seek to obstruct creating a better future for Lithuanian children. Because the funding for education should be spent on education, not to guarantee politicians’ electoral victories.

If it mattered to S. Skvernelis, he would have done so too.

However, J. Petrauskienė is no politician and only an education bureaucrat, who was not taught to break the bureaucrat system. It is also a question whether she had a vision at all, how her reform should have looked. And if she did have a vision, it is unlikely anyone understood it.

Could she have disclosed the names of politicians, who opposed the reform of the school network?

That’s something from the realm of fiction because S. Skvernelis himself and all the “Farmers” in Seimas are “corrupted by elections” – three elections ahead of newcomers, who have just started getting accustomed to politics, would be too much even in well developed countries. The “Farmer” Seimas group is also those, who do not allow the closures of superfluous schools.

Just the same as the other Seimas groups, with the Homeland Union ahead of them, who are now meandering around teachers in a hopeless situation and shamelessly lie.

Does the government deserve this strike? Certainly and even more. This and other governments, especially due to the deplorable state of education, deserve a strike from all of us.

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