FYR Macedonia faces a new wave of strikes and protests in education

FYR Macedonia faces a new wave of strikes and protests in education

IBNA Special Report

Skopje, January 12, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Naser Pajaziti

In FYR Macedonia, the end of January will be accompanied by strikes and protests in the domain of education. Following protests by students and university professors against the law on university education, a general strike has also been warned in the elementary and middle education.

Education, Science and Culture Union in FYROM has warned a general strike as of January 20 and the motive relates to the demand for a 25% increase of salaries for workers of this sector.

This strike is expected to paralyze the education system in case it starts at the beginning of the second school semester.

“We demand a 25% increase of salaries and the lifting of penalties for teachers, applied in several schools. As we all know, our strike was planned to take place in September last year, but following negotiations with the government, we have postponed the decision, hoping for a compromise to be reached. But, in the talks with the representatives of the government, there have been no compromises, especially about the increase of salaries and the lifting of penalties for teachers, due to results in external exams”, declared Nedelkov.

With the new amendments of the law on education, in case of strikes in this sector, all teachers who are on a strike, will be replaced by temporary teachers, in order for students not to miss classes. But, the Union says that this decision is politically motivated in order to put pressure on teachers and deter them from participating in the strike.

This situation has also been joined by protests from students and professors against the state exam. The two organizations formed with professors and students from public universities in FYROM, known as the Students’ Plenum and Professors’ Plenum, have demanded for the law on university education to be taken off parliamentary procedures. In case this is not done by majority parties, then a boycott of the learning process in universities has been warned. But, on Saturday morning, following a debate in the parliamentary committee on education, majority parties have passed the bill, sending the bill for voting on parliament, something which is expected to take place in the days to come.

Some of the warnings and requests by professors and students are even more extreme, because according to them, the law intervenes with the autonomy of universities.

Vladimir Martinovski from the Macedonian Academic Union and representative of protestors who recently protested against this government meeting, said that they could soon call for civil disobedience if the government doesn’t withdraw the bill for the state exam for students in the universities of the country.

“We’re just left with civil resistance. For this reason, we call on the government to heed our demands and not provoke a civil disobedience, which are legitimate. We address to our lawmakers”, declared Martinovski.

On the other hand, minister of Education and Science, Abdilaqim Ademi said that the new law will improve the quality of universities.

The largest Macedonian opposition party, LSDM (Macedonian Social Democratic Union), has also reacted about this situation. Petre Silegov, spokesman of this party, declared that once the government changes, all such laws which are damaging for education, approved by the current government, will be abrogated. “We will cancel all those laws that damage education, starting by elementary education and the current bill on universities. The way how these laws were voted by the majority, which is alone in parliament, shows the relations that PM Nikola Gruevski has with the public opinion”, said Silegov.

Debates and protests on educational issues are expected to mount political pressure in FYROM. /ibna/