Four opposition parties file motion to oust education minister

Ljubljana – Four opposition parties have filed a motion to oust Education, Science and Sport Minister Simona Kustec over what they see as “unprofessional and harmful policies” in organising child care and education during the epidemic, which has led to the longest school and kindergarten closure in Europe. She was urged to resign before the vote.

The motion was filed by the Left, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), which together have 38 votes. They need 46 votes in the 90-member National Assembly for the motion to succeed.

According to the head of the Left deputy group, Matej T. Vatovec, the main problem is the “inefficient, unprofessional, inconsistent and harmful policy in child care and education”.

The parties say the Education Ministry has not prepared a plan on how to conduct education during the epidemic. “We are the country which has schools uninterruptedly closed for the longest time and this will cause long-term damage to students,” Vatovec told the press today.

The Left announced the motion after the government decided to close schools in two regions last week after only four days of in-person education because the two regions no longer met the red-designation criteria for relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Education and children’s needs have never been the government’s priority, the party said in a written statement at the time.

The four parties also blame the minister for denying education to children with special needs, claiming she has been ignoring epidemiologists and shifting responsibility to schools.

“We have very unsystematic and unequal treatment of children being educated in this period,” Vatovec said.

He believes some 4,000 children are thus directly discriminated against for not having access to required communication technology.

The Education Ministry has also failed to create conditions for organising school competitions for talented students. The future of young people is at risk because the country has no plan for post-epidemic recovery, the Left MP said.

He also pointed to sports club, which have been unable to operate during the epidemic but received no aid, and the deterioration of children’s physical abilities.

Kustec is also being criticised for proposing to scrap the fund financing NGOs and for not conducting dialogue on all levels. If she wanted to get through this crisis efficiently, she would have to actively cooperate with trade unions and expert staff in child care and education rather they doing things on her own, Vatovec said.

Another point of discontent is the government’s failure to endorse the call for applications to enrol in university courses, delays in legislation concerning science and research, and controversial staffing decisions “based on partial interests, personal grudges and friendly promises”.

Vatovec also mentioned the scandal Kustec was involved in September 2020 for appearing at a sports gala at which the guests were not wearing face masks.

“Slovenia actually does not have an education minister. So it is right that Kustec acts accordingly and puts an end to the state of absurd in education. It is high time for her to step down,” said SD MP Marko Koprivec.

Rather than defending the interests of children, teachers and other stakeholders in education, she is merely transmitting the ideas of Prime Minister Janez Janša, Koprivec said.

LMŠ MP Aljaž Kovačič said the minister had done nothing to prepare schools for a second wave of the epidemic and that she did not devote enough attention to children with special needs, who returned to schools only after a Constitutional Court order.

The head of the SAB deputy group, Maša Kociper, noted that the party was aware that the epidemic called for constant weighing between values and constitutionally guaranteed human rights. But the SAB has been warning since schools first closed that the government lacked a strategy in education, she said.

Zdravko Počivalšek, the head of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), of which Kustec is a member, said in a post on Facebook today that the motion to oust Kustec would open an “interesting debate that could contribute to finding systemic solutions”.

He expressed hope though that this would not be a “daily political theatre” but a serious debate. He said the situation in education could only be assessed in the context of the epidemiological crisis.

He said everyone should focus on preparing a plan on how this lost year would be made up for children going to school and for athletes.

This is the fifth ouster motion filed in this government’s term. A motion to oust Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Janez Cigler Kralj over his work during the epidemic was filed by the same four parties on 22 January.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs have survived the votes, while Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec had resigned before the vote.

The SD also announced last week that a motion to oust Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti would be filed before 8 February.