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Poverty forces staff to protest

UKRAINE. Seething resentment among Ukrainian teachers over poverty-level wages, crumbling schools and plunging academic standards boiled over into a mass demonstration earlier this month. More than 10,000 took to the streets of the capital Kiev to demand a better deal.

Government cutbacks as part of President Leonid Kuchma's national austerity programme have forced thousands of teachers out of work this year and hundreds more have been lost to the private sector. Even those who have kept their jobs have not been paid since the spring.

Ukrainian teachers have suffered even more than their colleagues in neighbouring Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Economic decline and political instability have contributed to the difficulties of daily life.

Konstantin Lozovastsky, 29, a physics teacher at Kiev Young Women's Lycee, a girls' secondary school, said that many of the better, brighter teachers had left to find jobs in the private sector.

Mr Lozovastsky, who graduated from teacher-training college four years ago and who has three young children, divides his week between three days teaching and two days working in a firm dealing in consumer goods. His teaching pays him Pounds 40 a month, the commercial job three times as much.

He counts himself among the lucky ones: "I've a wife, a family, health and a decent apartment so maybe I'm not typical. For most teachers, conditions are terrible and life is a struggle".

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