NGOs urge for permanent sustainable solution for the engagement of teaching assistants

GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO

PRIME MINISTER Mr. Duško Marković
MINISTER OF EDUCATION Mr. Damir Šehović
MINISTER OF LABOR AND SOCIAL WELFARE Mr. Kemal Purišić

Subject: Permanent and sustainable solution for the engagement of teaching assistants

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Dear Ministers,

We support the decision of the Ministry of Education to pay out teaching assistants that worked voluntarily with children with disabilities, by the end of the year, from its own funds.
It is also encouraging that the Minister of Education stated he supported changes to the law proposed by Ombudsman that ensure:
a) the work of assistants is paid;
b) the state will provide a teaching assistant to all children with disabilities for whom it was determined they need one (instead of may provide, as was previously the case).

However, we remind you that these positive developments do not yet provide answers to key questions:

  • How to ensure lasting and sustainable solution to the problem of hiring teaching assistants for children with disabilities – how will they be financed?
  • Will the Ministry of Education be responsible for their engagement and funding, or not?
  • Will these positions be systematized or not?
  • What will happen with those assistants whose work contracts for a definite period expire at the end of this year?

Work of teaching assistants is responsible and very important for children that are in need for them. The state must ensure that assistants work throughout the school year, instead of having contracts for only a few months and delayed payments. Due to such unfavorable conditions, assistants with experience and relevant training are leaving these positions. It is proven that changing assistants affects education of these children and that in those cases children are exposed to unnecessary stress.

We have proposed job positions of teaching assistants to be systematized, and that their wages provided from budget of the Ministry of Education, since they are teaching assistants in the process of education, and not social workers. After all, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities points out in its general view regarding the right to inclusive education, that States should require from their Ministries of Education to be responsible for inclusive education:
“ 58. Responsibility for the education of persons with disabilities at all levels, together with the education of others, must rest with the education ministry. In many countries, the education of persons with disabilities is currently marginalized within ministries of social welfare and/or health which has resulted in, inter alia, exclusion from mainstream education legislation, policy, planning and resourcing, lower levels of per capita investment in the education of persons with disabilities, a lack of overarching and coherent structures in place to support inclusive education, a lack of integrated data collection on enrolment, retention and attainment, and a failure to develop inclusive teacher education. States parties must take urgent measures to put education of learners with disabilities under the competence of the ministry of education.”

Finally, we remind you that in September we have suggested:

1) Schools to urgently systematize jobs for teaching assistants, in order to ensure their continuous and sustained engagement, and so they could be paid before elections;
2) The most qualified assistants and assistants with most experience to be hired for the job;
3) The change of the article in the law by which such a responsible job is performed voluntarily.

Despite announcements from the Ministry of Education before the elections that it will prepare proposals for a permanent solution to the problem and promise to invite representatives of NGOs for consultations, it has not happened. We hope that the new Government will, in a comprehensive manner and without delay, help resolve the problem of teaching assistants of children with disabilities.

We also hope that you will accept civil sector initiatives and consider us partners, especially in cases concerning the system of human rights protection.
Sincerely,

Milka Šćepanović, Executive Director of the NGO Our Sun

Tea Gorjanc-Prelević, Executive Director of the NGO Human Rights Action (HRA)

This initiative is also supported by representatives of the following organizations:

Milisav Mimo Korać, President of the Association of parents of children with disabilities, Podgorica

Miluša Cica Zugic, Director of UZPD, Nikšić

Marina Vujačić, Executive Director of UMHCG

Kristina Mihailović, Executive Director of the Association of Parents

Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director of the NGO Centre for Civic Education (CCE)

Maja Raičević, Executive Director of the NGO Women’s Rights Center

Ljupka Kovačević, Coordinator of Center for Women and Peace Education – Anima

Stevo Muk, President of the Board of Directors of the Institute Alternative (IA)

Ivana Vujovic, Executive Director of the NGO Juventas Ljiljana Raičević,

Executive Director of the NGO Women’s Safe House

Milan Mijajlović,”Njegoš” Jerotić Alexandar, President of the NGO Pandora

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