Staff shortages and low salaries. What can educators hope for?

"There are 36,000 more teachers in schools than we need!" said Deputy Minister of Finance Roman Yermolychev recently. The government proposed to dismiss teachers of retirement age, so to speak, to "optimize" the education system. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and the redistribution of the 2020 state budget are a challenge, but is it really planned to increase salaries for young professionals at the expense of the conditional savings?
Maryna Matviichuk
An activist
Let's have a frank conversation.

Most graduates of pedagogical higher education institutions are in no hurry to get a job in schools, especially in small towns and villages. Even the promised payment of 21,000 UAH is not always enough to attract a young teacher, given the heavy workload and illusory future.

Vacancies are updated every year and can remain open for rather a long period. And finding and hiring a young specialist is a manifestation of outstanding managerial talent and sheer luck.
And who "saves" the day? Usually, retired teachers do. In the absence of other sources of funding other than meager pensions, they accept any working conditions. It seems that such a state has been remained unchanged for a long time and has provoked many chronic problems in the education system. There is a big risk that if all retired teachers will be fired at the same time, many schools will simply have no one left to work.
There is a whole different story in higher education institutions. Most of the retirees have a doctorate and the academic title of professor or at least associate professor. To get rid of such personnel means to say goodbye to the master's degree in the specialty and to have problems with accreditation. Who of the heads of the departments would do that? Therefore, young professionals, who, by the way, are not numerous in universities, are the first to be fired or have their salaries reduced.

Just 10 years ago, working at a university was considered prestigious, and obtaining a PhD gave at least some hope for employment stability and bonuses for the degree/title. Today, however, the position of a teacher with a PhD does not attract young people, as it is unlikely that 6,000 UAH will be enough to live on, publish scientific articles, attend conferences, and participate in internships (preferably abroad). That's why the next admission campaign for post-graduate study turns into a hunt for aspirants. But that's another story...

Thus, the staff shortage is intensifying, and it is likely that in the near future, national HEIs will not be able to compete with headhunting firms in the business and IT sectors.

So, the call to fire pensioners looks short-sighted, to say the least. It is impossible to improve the standard of living of one part of society at the expense of the other. In addition, there is no guarantee that the funds accumulated by dismissing teachers of retirement age will automatically be used to significantly increase salaries for young professionals. Educators still remember fairytales about salaries of 4 thousand US dollars.

At the same time, in anticipation of September 1, the Cabinet of Ministers is raising the minimum wage to 5000 UAH, which means that teachers will receive their allowances. Apparently, the beginning of the "new political season" is forcing the authorities to take such steps.
Junior researchers were also included in this generous handout, as they were promised an increase in their salaries from 19,000 to 23,000 hryvnias per month. However, the scientists see this decision as a vivid example of a cynical lie and the existence of two parallel worlds in the country. Without a significant increase in education funding, it is not worth thinking of the successful implementation of such an approach, when teachers' and researchers' salaries are raised by "pulling up" the minimum wage rather than changing the tariff scale.
It is obvious that the local elections, which are scheduled for the autumn of this year, will provoke another wave of pre-election political populism. Crisis situations, such as the war in the east of Ukraine or the pandemic, forced the authorities to reconsider approaches to the salaries of military personnel and doctors. What should happen for politicians to finally pay attention to educators?
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