Russian teachers fear witch hunt over «loyalty» law

The Russian Community of Latvia, an organization of Latvia's Russians, fears that the draft legislation providing for sacking of teachers suspected of being insufficiently "loyal" to Latvia could lead to a witch hunt against teachers of bilingual schools, the LETA newswire reported October 19.

Vladimirs Sokolovs, the head of the Russian Community of Latvia, has sent an open letter to Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis, urging him to consider the suitability of Education and Science Minister Karlis Sadurskis (Unity) to his current post.

Sokolovs said Sadurskis was not suited to "the noble mission of education" as demonstrated by the minister's suggestion to punish disloyal teachers, on the assumption he meant teachers working at bilingual schools where part of the education process in carried out in the Russian language.

The head of the Russian Community of Latvia said that Sadurskis' interpretation of loyalty was much too vague. Instead of reforming the curriculum and teaching methods and making sure that teachers got decent pay, Sadurskis wants to exacerbate differences between Latvians and Russians, possibly in order to boost his own popularity as a politician, Skolovs said.

"Without confidence in teachers, it is impossible to raise confident children," he said.

"All peoples have the right to their own language and history, their own heroes and myths. What we have in common is confidence in the principles of freedom and democracy which form the foundation of the Latvian Constitution," the leader of the Russian Community of Latvia said in the letter to the prime minister.

On October 4 the Latvian government upheld draft amendments to the Education Law proposed by the Education and Science Ministry under which the employer will be able to immediately terminate employment relations with a teacher or school headmaster for disloyalty to the Latvian state or the Latvian Constitution or for imbuing students with wrong attitudes to life, society and the country. In addition, teachers and school headmasters dismissed for their disloyalty to Latvia will be barred from taking any teaching jobs over the next five years.

The draft legislation does not include any outline of how "disloyalty" will be judged on any empirical basis, nor does it include any detailed outline of the procedure to be followed in sacking a teacher, seeming to give carte blanche to superiors to denounce and dismiss.

The bill was conceived following an incident in which a single pro-Russia activist, working as a teacher in a Russian-language school in Riga, criticized Latvia in a radio interview. Eve though he was stating his personal opinion, it caused suspicions that he might be spreading similar views in the classroom.

The criticism tops a bad week for Sadurskis who is also under pressure in connection with a new pay scale for teachers that means some salaries will fall for educators.

His ministry insists most teachers will be better off and more money will be pumped into education in the 2017 budget.

Riga mayor and opposition Harmony party leader Nils Usakovs is called for Sadurskis to resign over the matter.

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