Teachers are not given the adequate social assistance and healthcare - Part 1

How is the situation managed from the central and municipal level?

50 Kosovar teachers who suffer from different types of cancer continue to teach, despite their dire health conditions. Hundreds of others who suffer from serious illnesses also continue to perform their duties in primary and secondary schools in Kosovo. No law, regulation or administrative instruction provides for their early retirement with the appropriate pension for educators.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) has never collected any data on teachers with health problems; in fact the case has largely been ignored and left in charge of the Municipal Directorate of Education (MDE) and school principals.

Educators, in case of illness or accident, are entitled only to their regular sick leave and three additional months at 70 percent of their monthly income, but not a dignified pension. Teachers with health issues must “drag” themselves to class until their retirement age in order to obtain a pension of 140 euros. According to MDE-s, sometimes colleagues or even the principal will cover for the ill teachers, sometimes even illegally, and try to find some gaps in the budget that would allow to hire a substitute teacher in order to keep the ill teacher employed until the retirement age.

Directors of Education in municipalities admit that they are facing the problem of educators in poor health for many years. The Director of Education in the municipality of Malisheva, Blerim Thaci, says that these teachers, though in aggravated health conditions, continue to teach, pushing the days up to their retirement age. The only other option for them, he says, is to address the Department of Social Welfare in the municipality or the Ministry of Labour. But even in that case, they cannot expect a pension higher than 80 euros, since the calculation for disability pension is done according to the degree of disability. Thaci says that thanks to an agreement with "Caritas", he has managed to hire support teaching staff in his municipality, the means for which were donated by the organization, given that the municipal budget could not afford permanent and support/substitute staff for the same positions. According to Thaci, neither the Labour Law nor other legislation can be expected to find a solution for the replacement of ill teachers or for allowing them to stop working with the adequate financial support. He explains that, by law, an employee has the right to 20 days of sick leave and an additional three months of justified absence at 70 percent of her salary.  "But, if the teacher does not respond within this time, the teacher cannot come back to work or get paid anymore."

Qazim Maloku is the Director of Education in the municipality of Decani. He believes that ill teachers are among the worst-treated groups. Loopholes in the legislation and the lack of financial means to handle this category is creating trouble for the educational departments. “We try to cope without ever breaching the law. Several times during the five years of experience I have in this directory, I raised this issue in the Ministry of Education and they told me that ‘depending on the available budget that you have for salaries, hire two people (for the same position, the current ill teacher and her substitute)’.  We have the right under law to allow up to two weeks of sick leave, than 2-3 months with social assistance of 80 euros, and, when possible, to find substitutes. Anything else would be a violation of the law”.

Maloku says that these teachers are in an extremely difficult situation because. "There is no administrative decision or law that provides a solution". He says they have to deal with teachers suffering from cancer, heart disease, and even mental illnesses. “There is no law that determines some kind of appropriate assistance based on the type of illness. Thus, these teachers try to endure until retirement".

Muhamet Halili, the Director of Education in Ferizaj, says that there is a teacher who occasionally goes on sick leave, due to the impossibility of early retirement. It is unclear what would be the repercussions should the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Education decides to make verification rounds. According to the Law on Health and Safety at Work, the employer is obliged to submit all employees to a medical examination at least once every three (3) years, but Halili states that the laws for pre-university education does not contain this provision anymore.

Anita Kadriu
Pristina, March 2015