The new school year started in Serbia on Monday with announcements of teachers’ protests and strikes over new pay grades which they say will lower their salaries.
All four teachers’ unions have announced strikes in the form of shorter classes in both elementary and high schools which Education Minister Mladen Sarcevic has said is their right under the law. Classes in schools in Serbia are 45 minutes long but the law allows teachers to cut them short by up to 15 minutes.
“A 30 minute strike is within the law, allowing them to express their views and I have no intention of reducing anyone’s salary. I think their views are legitimate this time because we are discussing important topics,” Sarcevic told Belgrade newspaper Danas.
A total of 67,000 children are starting elementary school across the country. The first semester ends on January 31 and the second starts on February 18 in most of Serbia with the exception of Vojvodina where the first semester ends on December 21 because Serbia’s northern province is multi-ethnic with part of its population celebrating Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar and some according to the Julian calendar. Final year students in both elementary and secondary schools end the school year earlier to prepare for entrance and final exams.