Open letter of teachers from Eastern Slovakia (English translation)

<< BEFORE: Rabbit discusses school segregation with colleague, and then visits local community center to teach art class with local youths

Open Letter of teachers from Eastern Slovakia [Dobšina]:


  • (Reposted in translation from the original (in Slovak) on Jan Macek’s blog @
  • Thanks to astute reader Peter, who first brought this Open Letter to our attention.  I’m reposting the enitre letter because of the complete picture it paints of the situation of public education in Eastern Slovakia.  Note especially the sensitivity and complexity of the issue of correlation between problematic situations and race, and the overall depth with which teachers are involved in these problems.
  • I passed this entire letter through the automatic translation services of, and then I revised & (hopefully) clarified it with my own [adjustments in square brackets] AND with my own bold emphases on certain key sentences which resonate with either my own experiences or the views of experienced teachers who have discussed these issues with me…  Where necessary, I have also added some of my own comments [IN ALL CAPS, LIKE THIS].
  • Whether you agree with all its points or not, the Slovak original comes across as a well-written, impassioned, informed letter; if certain passages are a bit muddled in this English translation, please blame me, and the automatic translation software upon which I am forced by time constraints to rely!  — Marek


Dear Mr. Minister,

This letter arose in response to the helplessness which we encounter in our [daily] work. It is the testimony of ordinary teachers from the “[distant] East” [of Slovakia]. At the beginning we want to apologize that this letter is not written factually and formally, but full of emotion and indignation, but apparently it is already too much for us and our imaginary cup of patience just [over]flowed. We can not respond without emotion. Our letter is just a reaction to the intolerable situation in the Slovak Educational [system] and dysfunctional unjust social system in the state. We believe and hope [it] will be the impetus to review the current situation and position of teachers.

In Bratislava, far from your favorite “marginalized and socially disadvantaged groups,” you have no idea about [this, the] stalemate we are forced to fight every day. Come for a few days [to experience] issues that we deal with every day. Let’s look into our schools, finally [meet] with real students and [sit down] in the classroom [for] a few lessons. [Instead of] empty talk detached from reality, you should get to know the real situation.

We further note that this letter is not meant just for you. We also want to [begin to talk] about these problems in [the broader] public. Therefore [we are] sending this letter to the media and also publishing it on the internet and social networks. The situation is alarming, because we want to avoid further marginalizing solutions and ignoring the needs of education and the public by [competent parties].

“this is not about race”

We will not generalize and speak specifically to the problems of our schools, even when [almost all schools of the east have] identical problems. The greatest difficulty we have with students who are significantly socially maladjusted, they are almost exclusively [problems with] students of Roma origin. We emphasize, however, that this is not about race, or skin of the prejudices [or exclusion] against Roma. Similarly, we see all people and children without discrimination, it’s just who respects the rules and norms and who does not. Truants, whose number of unexcused absences reach abnormally high numbers, are the first issue of our school. Because the relevant authorities and institutions in this regard, students or their guardians hardly penalizes, [students miss even more classes with impunity], and what is worse, [these students give a] negative example to other classmates who see that for them there are [no truancy rates], or only minimal punishment. The granting of punitive action, sending forms and warnings for lax attendance, has zero [effect], as well as persuasion or different types of motivation. Students [do not participate] in the first lesson, leave [the following classes], often running away from the school. [It is not] unusual for the student to come to school in the morning [out of a total of six lessons, to attend one or two, and without the knowledge of the teacher to wander the corridors of the school]. It is [within our strength and capability] to find and “collect” [OR “herd”] pupils, who should be [in class], but are not. In addition, these students are the most aggressive and arrogant, and there are different types of sexual harassment not only offellow students but also of teachers. The situation in some classes borders [on the] systematic bullying of teachers. Almost all parents [shy away from trying to] solve the problem and do not show even minimal willingness to cooperate with the school. Many students go to classes absolutely unprepared. In addition, it is not conducive to teaching, neglecting domestic preparation (nobody ever haswritten a single homework or prepared a project), and they do not bring even basic school supplies!  [It] is common practice that a student comes to school [not only] without school bags, [overshoes], pencil, sanitary bags, sports outfit, [crayons and art supplies], and other needs for further education and fine arts, but [in the end the majority of them] even usually come without a single workbook, without a pen or pencil [at the very least], with absolutely nothing more than the poorest tenth. Parents of these children are even beneficiaries of the financial contribution of €17 [~$21], which is paid mostly to just a group of noncomforists [truants] and people just for the fact that children perform compulsory school attendance. The question is, [what is the] reason they are assigned to this [assistance], since compulsory education [is in accord with] the law and is therefore required for all children without discrimination and also why are these funds usually paid only to parents of the same population. Why are these people systematically and unjustly [benefitting] over other parents who [unlike the parents receiving aid] not only send [their own] children to school, but also see to it that [their children] are prepared and have all the tools and actually [attend school]. For what [reason should these parents not be paid the said allowance]? Responsible parents and the general public are outraged that the law is positive discrimination, which can not be called otherwise than a mockery of conscientious families. We have noted that the contribution [is paid] to parents of children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and paid [with the regular attendance of the children at school] is a [normal and gross] violation of truancy and other problems of educational character. These children do not attend school [for] learning and education, but [rather to] provoke classmates and teachers, resolve a personal dispute, romp and rollick, [smoke cigarettes in front of the] school etc. [It expressly] makes them happy to [disrupt] the operation of teaching, life and functioning of the school as a whole. They come to school because “it is boring at home and at school, at least [we will] have fun.” And [fun means] disorderly conduct, which causes problems to all sectors of education, paradoxically, usually in addition to yourself … The maximum punishment that parents ‘affect’ is that the specific recipients of benefits will become the city in which they live and their social workers [become] “maids” to buy them food, clothes and equipment for children, buying them directly [and carrying] them home, and so they can be promptly realized.

“They are missing the most basic hygiene habits!”

The preferential prices of allowance against the parents for the sake of brevity we will not  mention, but it is outrageous that a lunch for a month (if the month has 20 working days)  paid by the parents of some children’s amount of 1.80 to a maximum of € 3.20 [~$4.00]  (depending on age) and parent working more than 23 euros! [~$30] A student lunch is only  because they [attend] a first lesson. So what if he did not [bring] pen, exercise book,  pencil, homework. Not only did [the student] not work at all on the hour, but caused some  [distractions] and teacher because it lost a third of hours trying to bring discipline and  working atmosphere. Again, it is questionable why this all-out anarchy can afford [to  continue]? Why the authorities and the authorities did not ensure the fact that children’s allowances meet its purpose and provide basic needs? Often they are so indifferent to  children whose parents are even so-called beneficiaries […] in material need (who ironically sometimes noticeably [go about in] new cars, wear designer clothes and spend Christmas in England). School supplies to these children ordering school, pupils are  absolutely and [within] two days after the deal, destroyed, broken, torn or monetised [sold  off for cash]. This scheme would be in their hands completely missed the action, and because teachers are forced to complicate their work even by such devices per day by students sneak  into individual lessons! Nevertheless, they are thankful for them as tools of state is the  only way the learning process can be fully secured. Even this, however, parents do not like them and we meet with cases where a parent will visit the school for the first time when it  comes to guessing and claim submission tools into their own hands, so that it can [sold off  for cash]. Different types of financial benefits to parents of these children receive, [even though the parents] do not provide basic needs. Children walk in torn, dirty, stinky piece  of clothing, the shoes [falling apart], no snacks, [louse-infested, they] have different  kinds of skin diseases and they are missing the most basic hygiene habits!  [But they always  find ] money for mobile phones, alcohol and cigarettes. In the winter months [it] is not a  rarity when a child comes to school in leaky boots and jumper. Teachers have regularly work  from home take away different types of “souvenirs” in the form of fleas and other parasites  or viruses from jaundice to streptococcal and staphylococcal disease. A couple of times a  year we smuggle out of the house in the ‘pets’ such as mice, rats or cockroaches. On  completion of the real picture of the real state of their “socialization” We can not mention  the state in zero or first grades of elementary school. Since the vast majority of children  are not trained at all, in kindergarten and never been unaware of some Slovak, never picked  up a pencil and [never learned to draw], unfamiliar [with] toys, colors, and the first weeks  of their stay with us are not taught to know the first letters, numbers and colors, but are  acquainted with running water, flush toilet, blowing your nose into a handkerchief instead  of sleeves, and daily living and basic sanitation. Communication with these children is a  daunting [task], talk poorly understood, [they] do not understand what was required, because  of their limited vocabulary (and not only in Slovak, [but also] Romany). Later, we [expect  they will learn two other languages, which is unthinkable, really, since they do not know  even Slovak]. I can not name the common things that are unknown for these objects, which are  never met before.  Any wonder that special schools are full of Roma children? But why? Aware that the child holds crayons in hand for the first time on entry, does not know the toys,  blocks, objects and games that develop their thinking and motor skills. These children lag  behind the [not] two, but four years compared to others and we want them to cope with the  requirements for freshman they are at a three-year child [level]. We can not provide them  equal access to education, if [they do] not start at the same “starting position”. They have  to catch up with 6 years without complaints, without leadership and education! How do we  integrate the majority of our schools as [they] are more than half of the total number of  students?  As a result of efforts to integrate artificial clever minority, from which it  could be great students, drops to the level they are clumsy and integrate between them. We  consider it essential that children from unhealthy environments undergo zero-compulsory  preparatory year! Otherwise, they are not able to fully benefit from the first year (and  often even throughout his school) and are unnecessarily subjected to constant failure and  emotional traumatisation.  Deferment of compulsory schooling in these cases, absolutely  nothing resolved, on the contrary, the child will lose a whole year (because the family was  not given to him again). With zero grade [the student] will learn the Slovak language, basic  health habits, get used to [being] at school, and gets at least some basis for further  learning.The questionnaire (questionnaire SSI) have recently asked us how we provide equal access to education for children. How do you ever think about it, that education of these children would be equal when they are hungry, thirsty, dirty, slept (because parents in the night “celebrating” and they either could not sleep and kept the younger siblings) have scabies are [louse-infested], scalp is inflamed, [scratched and clawed at], full of pus and crusts, and because the parents want them to establish a friendly, comfortable is cut out their heads bald (boys and girls!) so that they are ashamed to go among the people? Note that these children have basic needs met and we expect them full performance at school! So we therefore ask how the teachers do their work effectively under these circumstances? Just a few maladjusted children in the classroom and prevent progress in the valuable and other classmates. in the classroom is incredible smell and odor, and it really is not decent for Education and are not fair for other conditions, adaptive students, teachers, or us. [We do not wonder] therefore, that parents prefer their [skillful children to] enroll in schools outside their place of residence, only to [be] constantly having to fit in with the undignified conditions of neglected children. [They] want to receive an education corresponding to their intellect, which do not hinder students of lower intellect, or just extremely socially neglected, [who] are unable to proceed accordingly.

Despite the enormous effort and personal zeal [of] school teachers [this all] produces absurd number of students who are in the labor market and of no effect without any social and work habits, which in our view is again a result of faulty operation of the policy of this State. Nonconformist [i.e. drop-out] fellow citizens have quickly become accustomed to the benefits that they offer state and identified themselves with the idea that everything will be free, is cared for and still not even lift a finger. When someone wants them [take] to some kind of participation in improving their life situation, [even that is a] scandal. So the couple unadaptable citizens to peacefully survive your life in some social housing (because they will last more than a few years until it is completely demolished, and their new country can be free), he made a lot of children (to give them something accidentally missed, they begin to have confidence at fourteen), at all times to receive support, contributions and grants from fiction in the world, while his whole life or the state levied a single cent, [he] will not even [add one] euro to our economy just sucks and receive all sorts of available forms of social “aid.” It’s vicious circle: They are poor because they do not work, do not work, because they are ignorant, uneducated, they are not interested in education. [In contrast], responsible young couples postpone parenthood into increasingly older ages, as long as the financial, economic and physical security to provide Papoose everything they need, they raised it a decent, educated, and socialized productive member of society again. Although not directly relevant to education, also touted to speak to the issue of the amount of maternity pay, which is comparable to values? For [every] mother that did not [give the] state a single penny, a mother before birth years worked and paid into the state treasury a lot of money. Why is this productive group of population of the state not only [not being supported by the state], but on the contrary, discriminating and difficult for the unavailability of financial accommodation (as the working man will never get anything for free, and [for] housing, [goes] life-long into debt ), lack of work, miserable salaries … We ask, where is the logic, where justice? Why is it possible that parents who postpone their children in an orphanage, [and then] get them from the age of majority [18 years] can take back again with a nice pile of accumulated money which they “pieced together” [from the] city? Money in a few days [they drink away], but a high school graduate or undergraduate, who is jobless [through] no fault of their own (!), have 26 years to foster parents? Neither these productive parents, or young graduates are not entitled to absolutely nothing? For any form of support from the state??

Maladjusted parents usually have absolutely no work habits, do not get up and go to work, and therefore, do not bother to wake up and [get] their children to school. Children wake up, not knowing what time it is, and go to school alone; older children must take care of younger [siblings] because parents are sleeping. Of course, [thus they] do not come to school on time and [by 10:00] they even dream [hungrily of the] few dry rolls that [they] chewed almost all day. The solution might be boarding schools, but not enough to educate their start in six years. What they previously received in the family will never have a chance to catch up, [as any high school student of developmental psychology can tell] …

“sexual abuse of minors”

The problem, which [we] should also address [is] the sexual abuse of minors. Not only for our school each year, the number of pregnant schoolgirls in the lower grades. It is not acceptable [that] the sixth grade pupil was seen by a worthy mother able to educate your child! The competent authorities in this respect [are] taking absolutely no action to stop this “trend.” Within two years, [she] gives birth to another child. [Is it] normal [for] that 14 year old pupil [of] special class to father a child with mental retardation “graduate” special primary schools for pupils with mental retardation and [within] year of birth is pregnant with another child? How to take care of children? After all, they are unable to take care even of themselves!? What facilities they provide, what education they can, what emotional support as they develop their personality? They live together [with] the girl’s family (along with dozens of other family members), happily, such as children or adolescents with further intercourse without any form of contraception and begets children. How [will their] descendants [be]?? Disabled children and disabled children engender in what circumstances? These children are doomed to live in undignified and inhumane conditions. Again, poorly adjusted social system and the conscious view of the problem meant that young girls in their pregnancy can not see any problem, on the contrary, they perceive it as a welcome way of earning money. Not only did they [make a] negative example to other students, but are not able to at least an acceptable way to end compulsory schooling. Notwithstanding the recognized efforts by the school, which through various preventive techniques, discussions and educational activity for hours of trying to prevent ill premature birth, the problem persists. Girls (often before the age of 15 years) are often pregnant with much older men, and even in this respect [the state] is not acting in any way and [the older men] are not prosecuted. The situation is alarming! In the academic year 2010/2011 … our school [had] four pregnant girls, now we have 5 pregnant schoolgirls and three girls with an individual learning plan, [who are] on maternity leave! At their offices instead of penalties, paradoxically, even the order of what to do to get extra money from state and [vyžmýkali=used up? Exhausted?] which can be as from dairy cows. [??] Therefore, all children born to our pupil (and the money given to them), entrusted to the care of grandparents who have to get them additional funding. Instead, the grandparents were penalized for having neglected education and committed their child [to] become a minor [drop-out], irresponsible and incapable parents unprepared, even profiting from the situation. We propose to provide financial contributions to a maximum of 3 children. If they want to have more of them [they should be] considering whether they will be able to support themselves. Otherwise, no end to this sick cycle of excessive fertility, which is seen as a kind of employment. These children have no right to live in dignity? Where are their rights when they live in one room with twenty other people in the dirt, kid, hungry, have lice, fleas, without water, electricity, toilet, legs are [gnawed by] the rats every day, to look upon it as their parents or other household members before their eyes [have] intercourse, even they are often themselves sexually harassed or abused. If you want social assistance and education for “marginalized” in the sense that is effective and efficient, encourage better teaching sex education in schools, better start handing out condoms free of charge and no [handouts to people who] replicate [with] relatives mentally unfit and adolescents, because they themselves have never purchased condoms and will continue not only a giant fertility, but also the expansion of venereal diseases among the population of nonconformists. We should seriously think about setting the social system in this area. Otherwise, [there] will continue to occur more and more generations of genetically damaged, unproductive and maladjusted children that are in the eyes of their parents only a means to finance his lifestyle [by appointment(?)]. This population has to make our pensions?

Apropos: Can you imagine that the current situation to a teacher after 40 years of education at all will live in retirement? [Anyone who has] ever been a teacher, or at least [knows] a little [of the] backstage area of the school, knows how extremely difficult and exhausting is the profession (especially the psychological and emotional [role]). Every working man deserves to retire with dignity and in which at least, a physical and mental strength, and not only [live to see] fiat a few years after. If you can go into a retirement pension before the cops (the ones who [sat around] entire time in office), why not teachers? Perhaps less deserve it after years of extremely challenging mental, emotional and physical strain? It would be highly appropriate to address this question.

And there are a huge amount of our obligations, orders and restrictions on the teacher, but taken us any possibility of defense or the person’s own powers to intervene. We have everything, but nothing we can not … We have absolutely no way out than to defend, because “the law” is solely a student, which we have at all times humanistic approach and punish him. Is there anyone who stops us-teachers? Is there someone who stands up well on our side ? Who will protect us? When a teacher’s imaginary cup of patience overflows and [the teacher yells at a student], immediately [the student] accuses [the teacher] of child mental anguish.  But every day, the teacher must bear the insults, threats, vulgar world of fiction, degrading comments, sexual innuendo or taunts and slurs of students without a word. Students with impunity secretly film [teachers with] the mobile phone and [post to] the internet. Although no one considers the current situation as alarming, or at least worthy of attention and solutions. And the worst thing that will affect these students is reduced by behavioral sign that they absolutely do not care. [They don’t] ever need [a diploma]. On the way home he happily [underscores?] and unsettles the [community]. They are not interested [in] lack of unexcused [attendance] in the classroom. Even for some (and not only nonconformists) [it is too much of] a problem to write a note and shocked ordinary rush a teacher, why bother them so burdensome tasks such as writing notes: for why should the oppressed matters such as benefits [skills] or behavior, when secondary schools are still a will kill every one fourth [1/4] because funding depends on the number of students. [DOES THIS MEAN TEACHERS HAVE A VESTED INTEREST TO *NOT* NOTICE TRUANCY?] [We do not wonder] therefore that students achieve below-average level of testing [of children], they do not have any incentive to learn because they know that they get [through] school without any effort […]. We perceive [it] as absurd and absolutely astounding to receive high school students who barely [pass]? Where then, after high school (and they’ll also end up as schools reduce the level of education that students benefit,) to [find employment]? Or the “intellectual efflorescence” we will [pass on] to high school (and [is anyone really studying there anyway])? All education levels lose! This brings us to another shocking fact: We produce a bounty of seemingly “highly educated” college students who are in fact sometimes absolutely ignorant, and yet our country lacks skilled workers and experts in the field of manual labor. University [education] does not reflect labor market demands [at all]! Why [do we have] hundreds of social workers titled (for which by the way [we cannot see] any job well done, where are the results of their efforts and social work?) and all sorts of managers who annually spout University [education], and who then have nowhere to [find work]? In addition, at the expense of [above-mentioned] less skilled graduates, the clever [students][are not getting adequate education], again because of the reduced criteria and demands of [other less-qualified] students. In addition, graduates are often unprepared to practice extreme. A prime example is precisely the teaching profession, where [in University they don’t even teach the most important things, but only after the move, after the young teacher takes up a job.] In University, [this future] teacher gets a huge [education in topics like] quantum theory, and general knowledge ([which is all] often totally unnecessary), but totally [absent is any preparation in] the real work [of teaching], of filling in documentation [paperwork], of the basic rules and responsibilities of the teacher, and possible solutions to the various school situations [classroom management]!

“the nature [and meaning of education], which for us [was always] a student and not a paper”

[Another] striking fact is why in today’s schools various bureaucratic and formal actions by the teacher and the school itself are much more important, [rather than] fulfilling what the student [needs on the] educational, emotional, and human side. Where [did we lose] the nature [and meaning of education], which for us [was always] a student and not a paper? Teachers are on each side systematically terrorized by various forms of control and intolerable bureaucracy of filling-statements, classroom documentation, notices, summons, minutes, evaluations etc. Completed numerous notifications of neglect of compulsory school attendance, unexcused hours of school infractions, write features for problem students, every now and then to another student and to another institution, city, state, criminal police, Bureau of Labour … , Where is the synergy of ingredients? And to make matters worse, as every school year we have to fit with new national education program, whereby we must change our school curriculum and constantly evolving curriculum. Each year, every year, changing the names of objects, if not whether a [class is] called the “sports training”, “physical training and sports”, or just “physical training” … What good is it [to be] so terribly complicated? It is not acceptable [for the teacher] any one year to restate these documents! [If] the State is unable to provide us with ready-made educational programs and curricula, [then] let us at least [make our] own, [and then] also use them at least a couple of years and not constantly change and remake them! What’s the point? Talk about the possibilities of adapting the content to be rendered individually, compile the school curriculum as positive, the absolute disadvantage, even downright unreal complication for the transfer student to another school where he can build on their learning process because they have a curriculum [guaranteed to be] structured differently. The education system still has to be unity, and not such a chaotic anarchy and inconsistencies! The choice we need, but for more than a few hours of elective courses – such as the required education for marriage and parenthood. A maximum is also demeaning and outrageous that the teacher spent hours at the computer and the literature in order to thoroughly prepare for teaching. It is a shame our education, we do not have textbooks for each subject, and if any are outdated or subject matter in which absolutely does not correspond with the curriculum for that year. If the Ministry does not intend to give the compilation of textbooks, specifically for each class separately, we require at least issue a comprehensive set of materials (such as object civics), which will include a fully worked out all issues of this subject for all primary school classes in total (and this material followed up by another collection of high school). Worksheets and other tools for some items are missing entirely. But textbooks, worksheets and other tools for students with mental retardation are perfectly developed for each grade. Can someone explain the logic? Students with MR [Mental Retardation], who will never be the pioneers in the field of medicine, education, and will never be given to quality job performance in areas related to the intellect, [still receive] the latest training methods, with the best technology, [and] brand new textbooks. [Meanwhile,] current students who are intellectually at a reasonable, often higher than average level … who may be physicians, researchers, politicians, teachers, are literally [consigned to?] discrimination and fit with old antediluvian textbooks, lack of tools (workbooks for individual subjects and textbooks for foreign language can be purchased at their own expense) and stressed out, exhausted teachers. Why [does the system] discriminate against and deny basic [education] rights to a group of people who will be the only productive [group] for our country and will contribute to the development of our country?? And by the way, this is a commonly occurring phenomenon that the state supports and favors [a group that will not only produce nothing in return, but which has also abused] the productive members of society, from whose work … these individuals eat [i.e., receive state benefits]. We do not want to sound disparaging and discriminating against students with mental retardation. We just ask the same rights, opportunities and conditions for other children. The documentation of the pupil [we] will not even mention.

In addition to all these tasks and requirements that are imposed on teachers, still we continue to educate, chase credit, pay rates, training and travel to spend time [in] “artificial” and inefficient molding [professional development?] that you [you, the government] have [required]. Most of the [required] credit education courses [are] absolutely pointless and [the teachers there know] almost nothing innovative. [They] are tacky, useless “lip service” courses to fill one’s pockets. The responsible teacher, who depends on the work, as a matter of fact does not need forced motivation in the form of credits, but [develops] continuously throughout life, according to their needs and the current situation. If you want to motivate teachers, rather use the money for financial rewards of their work. When you find money in gold, diamond, or platinum “parachutes” [for] senior [citizens], kindly find the money for education. Place of relaxation and time to rest [are] so much needed and we therefore [need psychological hygeine], [that we are therefore slaves of credits,] that we need to at least [improve a little] our paltry salaries, which compared to other professions are almost comical. Why then wonder that so many teachers [are] spent? No preventive techniques performed against burnout syndrome will help us when we have no time to rest and recover strength. And instead of [stupidities], which load and reproach us as we fail in roles of teachers, thank you, teach us how to motivate students to learn[, especially how to motivate the] nonconformists who have absolutely no intrinsic motivation, and motivation from family and society. [Provide] courses for us that teach us this in such circumstances and under such conditions, [since] we do not know.

In the schools, the professional staff are undeniable benefits: school special educator and school psychologist, who can greatly assist and contribute towards improving and solving some problems in schools. Schools, however, they often can not afford [these positions] even though their salaries are still [more mizerly] than teacher salaries and politely mak[ing] a living on that income for them is impossible.

It is [a time of] all sorts of computers and advances in technology, but [is it] really necessary to artificially impose technology in schools to such an extent? We teach with the assistance of the latest modern computers and ICT, but our students they can not even wash their hands thoroughly, cut nails, sign, or say hello.

Another problem in our eyes is the teaching of religious education in schools. Despite the agreement between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See on Catholic upbringing and education, we believe that religion is a private matter for each man by free choice, worldview and personal faith. And therefore should belong to the religious education of each pupil’s personal life and his family in private. Teaching of religion in school are mostly problems. Catechists and often do not have the time or the inclination and desire to teach it. Regularly absent, and therefore must be religious education often substituted by other teachers or students as they move at that time a group of children with ethics and thus undermines the whole learning process. Catechists ignore their responsibilities in completing various school documents, but also for basic [classes?]. Class teachers have to ask [students], sometimes [with] class book and pen in hand [sign up for the class retroactively] a few weeks back. Even though the [classes] were [already] taught, they have happily entered [the retroactive signups] into the class book. The actual content and content of religion [classes we] will not even mention. Of course sanctions for frequent absences and failure to perform duties catechists are somewhat unknown. Students with religious education often lack valuable, sometimes almost essential knowledge and skills that are developed on ethics. Indeed, the ethical education, pupils learn to distinguish good and evil, moral and immoral, learn to create a stable, functional and meaningful interpersonal relationships, train their empathy, learn sociability, cooperation, creativity, tolerance, assertiveness … Children religiously based probably do not need these skills? Ethics should be part of education for every child, it is not yet [the opposite of] religious education, but no religion in any way can replace ethics education! It would be far more effective [to leave] religious education and faith to family and leisure time, and [instead] strengthen ethics class [so that] that teaching can be effective, experiential, [and] full! [It would be even better for] teaching ethics, if the [classes had fewer] students [so the] teacher [would] be able to pay them [more attention] on a more individual [basis]. It is important to recognize the need for moral education especially at a time when the responsibilities and duties of the family permanently moved to the school. Parents and society in their busy and bustling lifestyle of schools expected to substitute their job and teach children everything previously taught in the family.

Parents turn a blind eye problems and blindly to urge that their child is not a problem, on the contrary, teachers are the evil, unjust and vindictive fools who complicate their lives, and even dares to ask and ask them to cooperate to solve their educational problems of children. Of course so will present their views before the children, who then see their parents in the school and its allies against increasingly afford to provoke a lark, because they know that parents are at all times stand on their side. Very convenient solution for parents to throw all the blame on us, but still expect the school to take care of everything, except teach them basic knowledge and decent behavior, empathy, sociability, indelible part, functional interpersonal relations. Of course we care for drug prevention, sex education, education for marriage and parenthood, creating a positive relationship to culture and tradition, patriotism, respect for all forms of life, tolerance to diversity, ecology … Lost, however, that their roles and responsibilities in this effort with school work and not throw the burden of proof and responsibility as a school. We need them to expect and education in the family, but also assistance and cooperation in the education of their children. Not accusations, slander and attacks on teachers. Where is the respect gone to the teaching profession if education itself? We ask the competent [minister] so that he finally began to address specific problems and no longer ignore the intolerable situation in our schools.


We are concerned about how far this (somewhere already unbearable) considers the situation in the continuation of long-term failure to address the problem and postponement of a dysfunctional social system. The school itself has exhausted all possible and available forms of intervention, to no avail. The situation in education, and ultimately the whole society is unacceptably exacerbated and radicalized. Increasingly, they take “justice” in the hands of citizens themselves. Consider the events of Ves, in Šarišské Michalany*, or the latest case of Hurbanova.  Politicians and government long ignored and tolerated [and excused with alibis] [these current] particular problems: moral decay, social injustice, unenforceability [of] rights, reaction of positive discrimination … The reaction of the inhabitants (including children!) is apathy, intolerance, vandalism, aggression, racism and neo-Nazism, with attacks and hatred on both sides. [And if you continue to ignore this reality],increasingly support [will grow in the political spectrum for the far right and extremist groups] that are increasingly recognized and supported [by adults and even by younger children!]. [Do you] really want civil unrest or war? Because we feel [that is where this] is going.


Our complaints [and our call for help] we address not only to the Ministry of Education, but also to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, because these two components must necessarily cooperate to address the situation and not just “play [in their own sandboxes]” and close our eyes to problems. If you want to see real situations and realistic pictures of our time, come and look at the situation of the government schools in many eastern towns and villages.

In conclusion, we would like to express pleasure, that in some areas our complaints have perhaps [bringing about] better times and [better] enrollment in secondary schools and uniformity in education [and successful conclusion of education]. But [we] also hope and believe that [we will] gradually [address] a number of other problems mentioned in the letter.

Even though this [letter might] sound like [a godforsaken complaint], it’s just a desperate cry for help. We love our work, we chose the teaching profession in the belief that we will create a “better world”, but under these circumstances it is not possible. We wanted to raise children, educate the young person, teach them to discover the beauty and [cope with the difficulties of] life. Let us teach, let us educate [raise up], but in [the conditions] of dignity that we deserve, [and which “our” children also deserve]…

Erika Polgáriová and Eleonora Liptáková


6 thoughts on “Open letter of teachers from Eastern Slovakia (English translation)

  1. Thank you for bringing this up (note, I am not the same Peter that brought Mareks attention to the letter).

    I feel this is very well written account of what is happening in Slovakia, although I am afraid there is little that will be actually done about it on government level, even less so with current party in power (which is in large part supported by these “non-conformist” communities, of all ethnicities.

    • Peter —
      I agree, as in Slovakia so also in USA; if change were ever going to come from levels of national government it would have happened (or at least started) long ago. I think this kind of “Open Letter” is appropriate for getting details and perspectives out to THE PEOPLE of the communities, while simultaneously notifying government officials that the people NOW KNOW some details of this challenging situation.
      This is also why I feel it is important to honor the authors and translate such letters and share them with English-speaking audience here in USA — many of these situations are of course in detail unique to Slovakia, but essentially shared among U.S. communities with such levels of social and economic inequality… For teachers, it always helps us and motivates us to know that we are not alone in our classrooms and our struggles!
      — M

  2. I agree. These are many of the same problems and issues teachers working with socially and economically-disadvantaged students in the US and all over the world. I just read a book about the Mumbai slums( Behind the Beautiful Forevers) with the same desperation “What can we do to help the children? How can we turn their destiny of poverty and deprivation around?” The answers have been illusive and frustrating.. It’s wonderful that these teachers are bravely raising the issues. I only wish they would have taken time to edit and organize their arguments and examples with headings to help people read and absorb such an important letter. Has it lead to other Slovak teachers and school administrators taking up the discussion? How is the European Union approaching these problems?

Comments, Questions, Responses:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s