Leesi to Lukas: Put your foot down and fight for teachers' salaries

Lauri Leesi.
Lauri Leesi. Source: Siim Lõvi

Former principal of the French Lyceum Lauri Leesi urged Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) to be bolder in demanding higher salaries for teachers. Leesi finds that teachers should be paid €2,000 a month and work no more than 18 hours a week.

"I believe that my former student, Minister Lukas does not have the money presently. But to fight in the cabinet, slam his fist down on the table, like Peeter Kreitzberg – 'God damn it, if you will not raise teachers' salaries to €2,000 a month, I will storm out of this office.' That is how you need to fight," Leesi said.

Leesi remarked that low salaries render the teaching profession less prestigious.

"If a teacher makes the same as an average farmhand, there is little hope children will respect them. Why should they? They do not respect the person hired to split firewood," Leesi said.

The former school head said that the teaching profession has been turned into a par excellence example of an exploited class. "The fact that the normal working time of teachers used to be 18 hours a week during Soviet times and is 24 hours now I call exploitation. This should fetch a salary of €2,000 today," he said.

Leesi said that working as a class teacher is the most difficult part. "It pays an additional €120 a month in some schools, €100 or €140 in others. But I have always said that being a class teacher should fetch the minimum salary. As long as that is not the case, it makes no sense to talk about steps we're taking or hiking the bonus by €10 or €15. It amounts to joking around. And if they think it can avoid teachers going on strike, I can tell you that €20 is not going to achieve that," Leesi said.

Leesi said that teachers need to be able to assert themselves and maintain discipline. "When I entered the classroom, the door was closed and silence fell, you could hear a fly buzzing. And the lesson ends when the bell is rings. Those 45 minutes need to be spent on knowledge. But if 10 minutes are spent noting down who is absent, another 10 minutes on remarks... Eventually, you're left with just 8-9 minutes for teaching. That is a poor teacher," Leesi said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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