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Georgian Teachers Fear Massive Layoffs

A public school in Tbilisi. School staffs in Georgia have swelled in recent years.
TBILISI -- Georgian teachers and their unions worry that thousands of teachers might lose their jobs before the start of the school year, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

The Education Ministry has decided that starting in the 2010-2011 school year, all teachers must teach 18 hours of classes per week. Those with less will be laid off unless the school's director can prove to the ministry that the teacher is necessary.

Marina Utiashvili, a teacher recently laid off from middle school No. 175 in Tbilisi, told RFE/RL that 50 teachers had already been fired from her school.

"We were called to the school director's office and told that only those who have 18 hours can stay on," she said. Utiashvili said she has only have 12 hours, “and my pride wouldn't allow me to fall on my knees and beg the director to give me my job back."

Tinatin Alavidze, the director of school No. 175, said most of the teachers who were laid off had taught only five hours of classes a week. She added that "the ones who were fired are not the kind of teachers you would want for your children. They couldn't teach a class."

The government's decision to cut thousands of teachers was made after a June 8 meeting between Education Ministry officials and the heads of school resource centers from across Georgia.

A resource center director said the new plan is that if a certain class is 20 hours a week, one teacher will teach 18 hours and the additional two hours will be given to a teacher with fewer hours so that he/she can fulfill the 18-hour minimum.

Teachers' union representative Manani Gurchumelidze says it is unfair that schools are forced to reduce their budgets by cutting people.

"It's true that the schools' staffs are bloated," Gurchumelidze said. But she told RFE/RL that the new law will result in the firing of "librarians, psychologists, speech therapists -- people who are essential to a school."

Education expert Simon Dzhanashia notes that the government is responsible for the huge influx of teachers over the past few years because it has not allowed school directors to fire members of their staffs.