Ukraine: Trade union condemns government statements about the “excessive” number of teachers


In comments to the media, government officials have criticised what they call the “excessive” number of teachers in Ukraine, estimating it at 32000. They have also said that there is a need to “optimise” the school network and bus children from villages to schools in towns. High-ranking officials see an opportunity to increase the salaries of young teachers by making teachers of pensionable age redundant.

The Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine (TUESWU) is deeply concerned about these statements and strongly condemns the government position. TUESWU makes reference to constitutional and legal reasons in their criticism. Article 53 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the right to education for everyone. The state should ensure accessible and free complete general secondary education at state and communal educational establishments.

Thus, the norms of the legislation should be implemented through the state-created bodies and in the scope defined and enshrined in law. Statements about “excessive” teachers, whose number is determined by state standards and the legally established class size, look more than cynical. Equally cynical and discriminatory are the statements about a possible increase in teachers' salaries paid for by dismissing teachers of retirement age.

Groundless and inconsistent with the law are the intentions to “optimise” the network of schools, cur public funding for small schools and increase the basic class size when calculating funding. Such statements characterise a policy which will destroy many secondary education institutions, especially in rural areas.

TUESWU has repeatedly stressed that it is unacceptable to dismiss teachers who have reached retirement age and move them onto one-year fixed-term contracts. This already happened on 1 July and is contrary to the Constitution and laws of Ukraine. TUESWU condemns such policies and urges policymakers to comply with all legal frameworks concerning the labour rights of teachers and other education workers, including pensioners. This is the best way to ensure access to free general secondary education. Only the real recognition of education as a priority sector will lay the foundation for the economic development of society, creating the preconditions for comprehensive modernisation of Ukraine along European principles.

Georgiy Trukhanov, TUESWU President, vehemently refutes the government’s statement about teacher numbers. “On the contrary, there are not enough teachers in Ukraine to ensure quality and affordable education. There is a shortage of teachers both in rural areas and in large cities. Quite often one teacher has to teach several subjects or work in several educational institutions. Regrettably, after graduation from pedagogical universities many graduates do not go to work at school at all. The reason is chronic underfunding of the education sector and the low salaries of teachers. In order to ensure proper staffing of educational institutions it is necessary to increase the motivation of teachers, the prestige of the teaching profession, and stop cutting education budgets under the pretext of an imaginary teacher “surplus”. None of this contributes to improving the quality of education and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4.”