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February 19, 2020
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Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry proposes extending length of compulsory school attendance as an anti-poverty measure

3.2.2020 14:40
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO: Google Maps)

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) told journalists after visiting the Janov housing estate in the town of Litvínov Thursday, a development in poor repair, that the Government is discussing possibly extending the length of compulsory school attendance as part of the fifteen anti-poverty measures proposed by the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MPSV). According to various statistics, children living in problematic, socially excluded localities such as Janov very often never even complete their basic education.

Czech Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) told journalists today that he is "of the opinion that extending compulsory school attendance from 15 to 18 will not deliver any effect if you look at specific studies." According to the minister, the reason the MPSV submitted that proposal is that some pupils who never complete their basic educations enroll with Labor Offices for unemployment benefits.

"That problem is not meant to be addressed just between age 15 and 18," the Education Minister said. In his view, attention should be focused on making preschool education accessible by all.

The director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, David Beňák, said the problem with education applies to the entire Ústecký Region, not just Janov. "At the individual school level we know of some measures that could function, for example, social workers in the schools," he said.

Beňák added that familiarizing children with possible future professions also plays an important role in motivating them to complete their educations. During his visit to Litvínov, the PM said he wants to force the owners of such prefabricated apartment buildings that are in poor repair or uninhabitable to fulfill their obligations and begin taking care of their real estate and their tenants.

"We must develop some legislation to address this," the PM added. At the Janov housing estate, the city wants to gradually demolish four unoccupied apartment buildings, which it bought for CZK 1.4 million [EUR 56 000] from the CPI Byty company.

Local assembly members expect that demolition to help prevent the flow of unwanted tenants into the city. The Janov housing estate was built in the 1970s as modern housing mainly for the inhabitants of nearby villages that had been razed by the communist authorities for coal mining.

In the 1990s the town sold off the Janov apartment buildings during privatization and their new owners began leasing them to tenants who were impoverished and socially vulnerable in general in order to access the state-supported housing benefits to which such tenants are entitled. The housing estate is frequently visited by national-level politicians coming to the Ústecký Region.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Andrej Babiš, David Beňák, Janov, social exclusion



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