Czech Academics Stage One-Hour Strike and Protests for Higher Education Funding

Academics from universities across the Czech Republic engaged in a powerful demonstration of solidarity and frustration by participating in a one-hour strike on Tuesday. Several faculties continued their strike throughout the day, highlighting the long-standing issue of underfunding in the higher education sector, with an estimated deficit of 10 billion Czech Korunas. The proposed budget freeze for the upcoming year only exacerbates this already dire situation.

The Faculty of Arts at Charles University, the epicenter of this symbolic strike, had previously led unrest in the spring, inspiring other faculties to join the demonstrations. Humanities and social science academics had protested low salaries back then, with some lecturers earning wages comparable to those of grocery store cashiers. This time, academics from natural sciences and medicine joined the chorus of protesters, emphasizing the collective message that “Zero is not enough.”

The strike enjoyed support from various academic unions, and Josef Středula, the head of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, stressed the importance of solidarity in such crucial matters.

The primary demand of the strike was a general increase in the education budget, as organizers believe it falls short by 10 billion Korunas. Low salaries have been driving many academics to seek opportunities abroad, venture into the private sector, or opt for teaching positions at secondary and elementary schools where conditions are more favorable.

At 2:00 PM, when the strike officially commenced at other universities, hundreds of academics gathered in front of the Faculty of Arts building in Prague. Demonstrators from universities in Hradec Králové, Pardubice, Plzeň, Olomouc, and even Slovak higher education unions came together to voice their concerns. Banners with messages such as “I don’t want to be a lifetime priority,” “Fiala, Bek, Stanjura, the future looks bleak,” “Good conscience won’t heat your home,” and “Education as a survival game” were displayed prominently.

After speeches of support from representatives of other institutions and Slovak higher education unions, the gathering, accompanied by an impromptu orchestra and musicians, proceeded to the Ministry of Education. They announced their presence with the resounding chant, “We are here.”

Petr Pavlík, the chairman of the Coordination Trade Union Council at Charles University and former Deputy Minister of Education, emphasized the need for a plan and expressed doubts that the 10 billion Koruna “debt” would be repaid in the upcoming year. He stated, “We don’t want to be unreasonable but want a plan. Even this year, there should be an additional three to four billion, and in each subsequent year, the budget should continue to increase by several billion so that we reach the OECD average.” Pavlík also issued a warning, stating that if the government fails to act, this won’t be the last strike and urged parents to be aware that there may not be anyone to teach their children in the future, emphasizing their commitment to continuing to raise awareness about the issue.

Article by Prague Forum

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