SVIZ launching campaign for Kustec to step down

Ljubljana – The SVIZ trade union of teachers will launch a campaign to collect signatures among teachers to call on Education Minister Simona Kustec to resign, in a bid to send out a clear message that the Education Ministry has not been run well over the past year, that is during the coronavirus epidemic.

The campaign against the minister of education, science and sport will be carried out between 5 and 14 May only among those working in education.

SVIZ head Branimir Štrukelj told the press on Tuesday that “it’s important to hear what educators think” and “to say it loud and clear”.

A decision to launch the campaign came because “a year since the ministry has been led by Kustec, it’s become clear that she is simply not up to the task and that her staying on harms the quality of education”, explained Jelka Velički, head of SVIZ’s main committee.

She criticised Kustec for not prioritising and promoting the goals and needs of education while also showing no will and readiness to enter dialogue with teachers on forming coronavirus-related measures.

Her rejecting to enter talks based on respect and an equal footing is one of the key reasons why the measures had been taken too rapidly, had often been ill thought-out, misplaced or ever harmful, Velički believes. She said schools and kindergartens had been closed for too long, which severely affected the entire education system.

Kustec’s actions thus bring up the question of who actually runs the Education Ministry. “Most likely not her,” said Velički.

Štrukelj believes Slovenia has lacked education policy over the past year, or that it has been formed outside the ministry. “It is very arbitrarily led once by the prime minister, at other times by the health minister …”

To illustrate this, he cited Kustec’s “bizarre statement” that “things will get sorted out by itself”, saying the biggest victims of such an attitude were not teachers but school children and students.

Responding, Kustec said the government had taken a number of measures to accommodate for the needs of schools, including labour-related measures as part of coronavirus emergency legislation.

She also listed changes to the rules on promotion and more funds for teachers’ pay. “So for this and next year we have the largest budget compared to all earlier budgets.”

New employment options to help teachers during the coronavirus were introduced, including additional jobs for computer engineers and auxiliary staff, she said as she visited a secondary school in Kranj.

Kustec said she was trying to do all this in constructive dialogue with education stakeholders, which she hopes will continue also in the future.

The signature campaign comes after the centre-left opposition launched a motion to dismiss Kustec over the same accusations, which she survived in mid-March.

Just recently, the four parties sought a session of the parliamentary Education Committee to call on Kustec to resign. Should that fail, they will consider another ouster motion.