Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three cheers for Romanian teachers

As I briefly mentioned in my Sept. 25 post, Bulgarian teachers are now striking with demands for 100% pay increase. Their current wages are appallingly low. The government claims that the average teacher's monthly salary is about 400 leva (EUR 200). Teachers claim it is about 300 leva (EUR 150). I am more interested in the minimum salary fixed by law. I cannot find the actual current value of this minimum, because although Bulgarian laws are published in the Web, the access to them isn't free (don't you think that forcing people to pay if they want to read the laws they are obliged to keep says much about Bulgarian government?). However, at you can see (in Bulgarian) what was valid in 2005. This act fixes the minimum teacher's monthly salary at 247 to 286 leva, depending on his qualification. (To obtain the salary in EUR, divide the value in leva by 2). There has been no significant increase in pay since 2005. (Update: The actualized document valid for 2006 is available here, the minimum teacher's salary is 272 to 315 leva.) Most prices in Bulgaria are comparable to those in Europe. Do you find it normal that teachers with university education are forced to survive on EUR 130 per month? Is it a great wonder that Bulgarian schools are plagued by carelessness, incompetence and corruption, and should teachers be blamed for this?
However, teachers receive outrageously little support by Bulgarian society. A legion of people, including university graduates, suddenly began to care about the aborted reforms in Bulgarian education, saying that there are many teachers who should be fired, that bad teachers shouldn't receive the same pay increase as good ones (though nobody finds it wrong that good teachers now receive the same fixed low wages as bad ones), that teachers are guilty for the absence of reforms, that those teachers who think they are underpaid should leave rather than protest and if they don't leave, it is because they cannot find other jobs, which proves that they are incompetent and don't deserve even their current wages! I prefer not to honour these opinions with links. The Bulgarian reader can easily find dozens of them by two or three clicks of the mouse.
European public and institutions are also silent. As my earlier post shows, I have been an Euroskeptic for quite a long time, but even I didn't think that things would be so bad nearly a year after we joined EU. For comparison, Europeans find it so important to secure wages for Palestinian teachers and other government employees that they subsidize the Palestinian Authority, knowing very well that a part of the funds will be diverted to terror (and even if they really go to the teachers, we all know what they "teach" at Palestinian schools). I tried to find in the Web how much a Palestinian teacher is paid. This site reports that back in 1997, a year that Bulgarian teachers began with monthly salaries of less than $ 10, Palestinian teachers were paid $ 250 - 450 and were striking to increase these "meager" wages. I would ask supporters of the European Union, especially those who deny the reality of Eurabia, to explain why EU doesn't issue even verbal concern when teachers in a member state receive EUR 150 per month and at the same time subsidizes a terror "state" on the reason to secure twice higher salaries for teachers indoctrinating children with Islamofascism. Europe, where are you when we need you?
However, there is a supporting voice in this silence. Teachers' representatives from a European country expressed solidarity with the Bulgarian teachers. The country in question is not, as you could guess, some of the prosperous and culturally prominent members of "Old Europe". It is the other new EU member, our neighbour Romania. I've watched on TV a Romanian teachers' union leader encouraging Bulgarian teachers to continue their strike. On Oct. 6, teachers from Giurgiu even "crossed Danube Bridge to express support for their Bulgarian colleagues. For reference, the average teacher's salary in Romania from 2008 on will be EUR 500 per month" (source, in Bulgarian; another source reports that the minimum teacher's salary in Romania currently is about EUR 260).
This activism of Romanian teachers is even more admirable if we take into account the relationships between Bulgarians and Romanians. As is common for neighbouring nations, they have little love for each other. In the first half of the 20th century, they had bitter territorial disputes and conflicts. When the Communist era approached its end, another source of conflict emerged: cross-border pollution. I'll tell the Bulgarian side of the story because I know only it, though I am sure Romanians also have what to say. Ceausescu's regime built a number of chemical plants along Danube. Ther were located at the proper distance from the nearest Romanian towns, but no proper distance was observed regarding the nearest Bulgarian towns across Danube. Years ago, visiting a friend in one of our oldest Danube towns, Nikopol, I personally "enjoyed" an orange-brown smelly cloud of toxic gas coming from Turnu Magurele across the river. The worst case of pollution was the city of Ruse, regularly chlorinated by a chemical plant near Giurgiu. In the late 1980s, this undeclared chemical war even sparked one of the rare protests against the Communist regime. In the early 1990s, a fire at the Giurgiu plant threatened the very existence of Ruse. A heroic worker saved the day by securing a plug and so preventing an explosion, at the cost of his life. The problem of Ruse was solved not by Romanian government, Bulgarian government or international intervention but by his majesty the Free Market. In normal economic environment, the Giurgiu plant could only accumulate losses. It was shut down and its utilities were cut to scrap.
In the postcommunist era, the main source of dislike between Bulgarians and Romanians were border, customs and police officers of both countries, who habitually harassed travellers from the other country and forced them to pay bribes. When a Romanian journalist used a hidden camera to document corruption among Bulgarian customs officers, Bulgarian authorities prosecuted not the corrupt officers but the journalist, who was sentenced in 2004 to a fine of EUR 500 (source Mediapool, in Bulgarian).
Tensions between the two countries only increased when they applied for EU membership. Because of their many similarities, Bulgaria and Romania were put together and regarded as a group. During the early years of the procedure, Bulgaria was ahead of Romania in many respects. This created speculations that our EU membership could be postponed because of lagging Romania. Soon appeared the idea that we must demand uncoupling from Romania and leaving it behind. But God punished Bulgarians for this ugly talk. In the later years, Romania developed better and now is so much ahead of Bulgaria that, as we say, we can only breathe its dust in the air. I think that this is because Romanians after 2000 tended to vote wisely while Bulgarians kept going to the polls without bringing along their heads, electing the charismatic swindler Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 2001 and the Bulgarian Socialist Party in 2005, not to mention our Turkish minority empowering the infamous Ahmed Dogan's party. So democracy in Bulgaria proved for the zillionth time that nobody can harm you as much as you can harm yourself.
Now, it would be very easy and logical for Romanians to mind their own business and forget us and our misery. But they voice their support for us. So three cheers for the Romanians and I wish them to be even more ahead of us than they are now!


a romanian said...

Great article! We are one year later. I wonder what happened over there? Keep going, Maya!

Maya M said...

Thank you! Unfortunately, the teachers received only a symbolic pay rise and this was just a month ago. Government lied to them again, as usual.

mgm said...

My lost hope for this country and people comes back ...slowly after reading your material and sharing your position!
Keep going!
Let us support each other agains the trinity of ignorance,corruption and arrogance!
Write more!