The View from Here - Romania - Should teachers get cash for dressing to impress?
Teachers all over the world accept that a certain degree of ridicule from students - hopefully good-natured - is part and parcel of the job. But in Romania things are getting personal. As students swan into school wearing the latest fashions, staff are finding themselves on the receiving end of withering comments about their dowdy outfits and out-of-date suits.
The problem has got so bad, in fact, that MP Mircea Giurgiu is pushing for legislation to guarantee teachers something that most of their students take for granted: a clothing allowance. School staff should receive the equivalent of almost #163;370 a year to keep their wardrobes up to date, Mr Giurgiu believes.
A local television station recently ran a report that showed immaculately dressed teenagers approaching their school gates. Some spoke of the money they spent on their appearance every month - up to almost #163;200, just short of many teachers' salaries. The reporter talked to Teodora Simion, who teaches Romanian language and literature at a secondary school. She admitted to appearing in front of her classes every day in a suit she bought in 2008. This does not contribute much to the respect her students show her, she said. Despite that, she still loves her job.
According to some estimates, education in Romania has suffered 50 per cent cuts since 2008, the second deepest in Europe. Latvia, another former Communist country, comes first, having reduced spending by 55 per cent.
But one of the main teaching unions in Romania believes that moves such as suggesting a clothing allowance are typical of politicians who do not want to face up to deeper problems associated with education cuts and poor working conditions for teachers.
"The proposal (by the MP) is not the solution to the clothing problem," Simion Hancescu, president of the Federation of Free Trade Unions in Education (FSLI), told TES. "We can recall that a law was once passed that teachers would be given a grant of EUR100 (#163;85) a year to buy books so they could keep their knowledge up to date. That never materialised, which led to a court case between the FSLI and the government, so they simply repealed the law."
The FSLI said it has gone to war with the government on several fronts in order to defend teachers. "Our union has always responded when the rights of its members have been violated," Mr Hancescu said.
But, as in other Eastern European countries, some sections of the population resent the long holidays and shorter working hours teachers ostensibly enjoy, particularly when many other workers have lost their job security. However, many who make these complaints are parents, who must want their children to be properly educated. Teacher morale, starting from simple appearance, will have to improve to achieve that.