The call of the alliance “Schule muss anders” (“School must be different”), which includes 170 educational organisations and initiatives, brought out 15,000 to 20,000 participants nationwide (around 7,000 in Berlin, 2,000 in Munich and 3,000 in Cologne).
A section of the demonstration in Cologne
In the call for the education protest day “Bildungswende JETZT” (“Education change NOW”), the initiators address the federal and state governments as well as the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK), drawing on their online petition of the same name, which more than 70,000 people have signed.
With their four central demands, including at least €100 billion in “special funds for education” and “for a fairer, sustainable and inclusive education system that prepares for the future,” the alliance aims to counter one of the “most serious education crises since the founding of the Federal Republic.”
Video of the demonstration in Berlin
Nationwide, there is a shortage of hundreds of thousands of nursery places and 300,000 nursery educators in Germany. In the school sector, there will be a shortage of more than 160,000 teachers by 2035. According to the teachers’ association, a shortage of up to 40,000 teachers is expected for the coming school year alone.
“An enormous and widening shortage” of teachers and educators “meets an outdated, underfunded and segregated education system that is socially unjust,” the alliance states.
But the trade unionists and politicians who lead the alliance are themselves responsible for the misery in the education system that they loudly lament. They see the protests as nothing more than an opportunity to blow off steam and cover up their own right-wing and anti-education policies.
The alliance is led by the board members Philipp Dehne (teacher), spokesperson for education and culture for the Left Party group in the BVV (District Assembly) Berlin-Neukölln, and Ahmed Abed (lawyer), Berlin-Neukölln BVV Left Party group leader, as well as Jörg Tetzner, member of the district leadership the GEW education union in Berlin-Neukölln, and Annick Hartmann from the Parents’ Network.
Thus, the board is led by members of the very party that has been responsible for social and cultural decline in Berlin for almost 20 years, since the 2000s.
Together with their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, and in close cooperation with the trade unions, they have turned Berlin into the “capital of poverty.” Drastic budget cuts in all social areas and billions of euros in subsidies and support for the corporations have caused child poverty, housing shortages and low-wage work to explode in Berlin. Children and their education are the main victims of this policy. Many schools are dilapidated and there is a glaring shortage of teachers, especially in the socially deprived areas.
Now, at federal level, more than a billion euros are to be cut from education budgets once again in order to implement new billion-euro gifts to big business and the largest rearmament spending since Hitler.
The demonstrations were therefore marked by sharp opposition. The enormous anger among parents, educators and teachers about the horrendous grievances in education was only expressed to a limited extent. Because the parties and trade unions had hardly mobilised for the protests, it was mainly people from their periphery who came to the demonstrations. Justifications for the policies of the Left Party, the SPD and the Greens and even expressions of support for rearmament were more common than average.
On the other hand, those who had come to the demonstrations more spontaneously, despite the weak publicity, expressed their anger at the policies of all parties, linked the demand for billions for education with a rejection of pro-war policies and saw themselves as part of the growing labour struggles around the world.
Isolde came to the demonstration in Stuttgart because she is very worried about the future of her grandchildren: “Education is going down the drain. I don’t know where it’s going to go.” From her point of view, the money was not only lacking in education, but “everywhere.” Inflation, rising rent and energy costs, ever worse working conditions and poor wages were hitting more and more workers and employees hard. Instead of adequate pay for the professionals in the nurseries and schools, the trade unions, which should actually represent the interests of their members, were ensuring one real wage cut after another, she said. That’s why Isolde also attacked the role of the trade unions: “They could bring so many people onto the streets, but they don’t do that. They are compliant with the state.”
A sign at the demonstration in Berlin: “More money for education. NOW!”
When approached by WSWS reporters, Christian (Stuttgart), who had not heard about the planned demonstration beforehand and only joined by chance, said, “Less and less money is going into education, although education is actually a basic right for everyone.”
The impact of the lack of funding for education, which also includes recreational and social care for children and young people, was obvious to Christian. “The problems are evident everywhere. Even the riots that happened here were a result of cuts in education and other social areas.”
Anka from the Steglitz District Centre, an independent youth welfare organisation that organises five day-care centres, supplementary support at primary schools and youth houses, points out at the Berlin demonstration that it would be urgent “that we have sufficient funding.”
The growing poverty in the city was clear, especially for youth welfare organisations, she said. With the help of “networks, support projects,” it was still possible to compensate for the material effects of poverty. “To compensate for poverty or to notice that children don’t have certain things, sometimes maybe they don’t get enough to eat, and you notice that they eat especially much in the institution—these are things that we still get,” says Anka. “But that children are accompanied, that children have contact persons, that they have the language, that they have time to develop, these things, you can’t compensate with money or with material things ... for that we need people who have tim
e to actually deal with the children.”
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