31st October 1997, 12:00am



In this age of inspections, Hackney hit squads and naming, shaming, blaming and defaming, here's something to cheer up cowering teachers everywhere: things really could be worse.

One of Carborundum's globetrotting colleagues returns from Slovakia with news of a real fast-track sacking, and of a clampdown on college funding which will make any principal or vice-chancellor blanch with terror.

Spare a thought for Olga Rep sov , popular high school director in the capital and victim of the ultimate hit squad when a group of "state bureaucrats" arrived at noon one day to tell her she was sacked and being replaced by a member of the ruling coalition Slovak National Party.

"A tired horse gets changed," was the only explanation officials would give. Her real crime appears to have been to complain loudly at being forced to take 15 children of officials and their cronies, even though they had failed the high school entrance exam, thus excluding other students.

Such sackings are apparently not uncommon in Slovakia - 60 directors have gone in the past two years, the English-language Slovak Spectator reports.

But it usually happens out in the sticks, which may explain this case's happy ending. Olga was back at her post just three days later - thanks to her students, who hired lawyers, started petitions, elected a press officer and organised a 2,000-strong march through the capital.

It's enough to bring a tear to the eye of British teachers who might find it hard to imagine their pupils marching down the corridor, let alone to Whitehall.

If you think that's impressive, things are even livelier at Bratislava's universities.

Carborundum had little sympathy with ancient colleagues who moan that things aren't what they used to be in the world of student protest - until tuition fees came along, and still the nation's undergraduates could not be raised from their uncanny torpor.

Not so in Slovakia, where last spring saw no fewer than 20,000 students go on strike. And not over fees, grants, nuclear missiles, gay rights or abortion, but in support of. . . the country's actors.

That's right: Slovakia's students were concerned the state was "meddling in the nation's cultural life" (the marvellous Slovak Spectator again reports). It's unclear if or how Teletubbies were involved.

The protest faded away after a couple of weeks, but one arts school which backed the protest has found the Government has an unfortunately long memory. The already-dwindling state funding for the film and television faculty at Bratislava's university of music and dramatic arts has been axed completely.

Complains the final-year student who chaired the strike committee: "We are reduced to producing documents that show in theory how our films would look - we don't have the money to make the real thing."

No newspaper is complete these days without a horror story about either Teletubbies or Tamagotchi. We are therefore delighted to hear a tale from deepest Gloucestershire which involves someone other than the manufacturers making a bob or two out of them.

It has apparently dawned on three enterprising 13-year-olds at Heywood School in Cinderford that there are cash in them there Tamagotchi. Anyone who has failed to take a vacation on Mars in the past few months will recall that those are those anything-but-cute'n'cuddly cyberpets which wail plaintively when they need feeding, watering or exercising, piddle all over the virtual carpets and then die on their neglectful owners for a bit of light relief. Unsurprisingly, the damn things have been banned in some schools up and down the land.

Anyway, we digress. The trio are now running a Tamagotchi-sitting service for 40 classmates, charging 25p a day to feed, change and play with the beasties in breaktimes.

This has apparently come as something of a relief to the mother of one entrepreneur, Aaron Tuckwell, who had previously found herself minding the virtual pests in school hours. "I used to walk around the shops and they would start bleeping in my pocket. It's very embarrassing," she confides.

Master Tuckwell explains: "People's mums were getting fed up looking after them and the teachers said they would end up in the furnace. So we decided to look after everyone's pets in our breaks for a cut-price fee."

Market forces have, however, intervened. He adds, a trifle plaintively: "The going rate is 50 pence, but we had a lot of complaints about that." Still, a swift calculation suggests that even at a knock-down 25p a day, the trio are making 50 quid a week - enough to buy five cyberpets.

A plaintive e-mail from a Sussex primary school: "Amazing what some parents send in for Harvest - a packet of Jordans breakfast cereal 18 months past its sell-by date; an open packet of teabags, with less than half the contents remaining; and a rusty tin of Chinese soup labelled 'Veterinary inspected'!" Verily, 'tis better to give than receive.

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