School starts for all students despite flood devastation

Ljubljana, 1 September - A new school year started on Friday for 194,000 primary and 82,000 secondary school students. Although the first day of school came less than a month after massive floods devastated large parts of the country, including many schools, all students were able to start instruction.

Start of a new school year.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA
File photo

The early-August floods damaged 12 kindergartens, 19 primary schools and five high-schools. Some schools were also damaged in storms in July, according to data by the Education Ministry.

The schools which are still being repaired have found substitute locations or organised outdoor school activities for the time being.

In Nazarje, the whole ground floor of the primary school was flooded and had to be fully renovated along with the school yard. Initially, the plan was to have a group of kindergarten children on the second floor and have classes for the second, third, fourth and fifth grades in the near-by fire house.

But the parents of the kindergarten children decided to drive their children to the central unit of the kindergarten in Nazarje instead, so school children started the new school year in their classrooms, head teacher Vesna lešnik told the newspaper Večer.

In Črna na Koroškem, one of the towns hit the hardest by the floods, the primary school was not severely damaged. But the problem is getting to school, as the roads are damaged, landslides are looming, and construction work is under way in the area, so parents will have to drive their children to school for a while.

According to Mayor Romana Lesjak, a special commission will inspect the safety of the roads on Tuesday. "When they determine that school transports can be organised safely, we will start it. On most roads this is already possible," the mayor said.

Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar visited the town today to learn that roads can be used but "are still very very dangerous". "That is why I'd like to warn all those driving in the area that many roads are still damaged," he said.

In Luče and Solčava, a convoy of vehicles driving children and teachers to school was escorted by representatives of the Infrastructure Ministry, the Traffic Safety Agency and police this morning.

In Prevalje, the main problem at the Franjo Golob primary school and kindergarten is drinking water. Currently, they are using a 1,000-litre tank for cooking, and for washing fruit and vegetables, while children clean their hands with handkerchiefs, Večer reported.

"Luckily, we were not flooded, but the water will be a problem for quite a while, it seems. We'll be happy when we'll be able to wash our hands," Ana Buhvald Pori, assistant head teacher of the Prevalje kindergarten, told Večer.

A high-school in Ravne na Koroškem had problems with water supply, but now drinking water is available again. Another problem for the students there is bus connections, which are interrupted because of road works.

The students who are not able to attend classes will receive study material online and the students affected by the floods will receive both material and psychological aid, said head teacher Dragomir Benko.

The primary school in Mežica was until recently used by the army helping out with the flood relief. But the school was converted back to its original state in time, so no major problems are expected. The only problem there is gas supply, which is a problem in the entire Meža Valley, assistant head teacher Barbara Prevorčič told Večer.

Aside from the floods, Slovenian schools are faced with another problem this year - a lack of teachers. Official figures do not exist but the teachers' trade union SVIZ estimates several thousand posts are vacant.

Maths, physics and computer science teachers are in particularly short supply. SVIZ says the reason for this is low pay.

In 2021/2022, there were 19,614 teachers teaching at primary schools, but last school year this number dropped to 18,610, official statistics show. 88% of the teachers were women. The number of students meanwhile increased compared to the year before.

In fact, the number of primary school children has been steadily rising since 2010, when 161,131 students were recorded. Last year, the number rose to 197,062.

The number of high-school teachers dropped as well, from 6,299 to 6,226.

The government plans to address this issue with changes to the Organisation and Financing of Education Act, which will facilitate hiring teachers.

Under the changes schools will be able to also hire experts who are not teachers. But SVIZ is sceptical of this solution, noting that experts receive much better pay in the private sector, so it is not very likely that they will opt for a career in education.

© STA, 2023