Kosovo teachers’ union SBASHK (United Union of Education, Science and Culture of Kosovo) is forging a shared school-family-community-policymakers’ agenda to build a multi-tiered mental health support system. This successful effort includes hosting a national conference last month during which attendees agreed to collaborate on solutions going forward and the Ministry of Education committed to increasing the number of school psychologists, addressing national mental health legislation and supporting national mental health awareness campaigns. 

The conference—which brought together more than 80 representatives of Kosovo education unions and other union and civil society organizations, education, health care, government, the Kosovo Parliament, media, academia, students and parents’ councils—sought to destigmatize discussion of mental health; examined the latest research and best practices on mental health promotion, prevention and intervention for students, teachers and families; and facilitated opportunities for parents, policymakers, school administrators and teachers to work together on solutions. 

“Mental health in Kosovar society is intertwined with a series of factors such as transgenerational trauma from the [1990s Kosovo] war, low salaries that make it difficult to meet vital needs, high unemployment rates, unsafe environments—including cases of sexual assaults—and poor-quality education,” Member of Parliament and University of Pristina Psychology Professor Fitim Uka told conference attendees.

During panel discussions, workshops and breakout sessions, roadblocks to mental health improvement in schools were identified, resulting in a joint appeal for more psychologists in schools, teacher and psychologist training programs, better teacher working conditions, specialized service referrals and advocacy campaigns for reducing mental health stigma, and, above all, for stakeholders to work together.

“This conference proves that, together, we can help for the good of a school and for an even better education,” said SBASHK Chairperson Rrahman Jasharaj.

Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau, who also presented, reinforced the call for a shared school, family, community and policymakers’ agenda.

“We’re all in this together, to help our children succeed and help our schools succeed,” she said.

During the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, SBASHK played a vital role in preserving education services. Today SBASHK advocates for better working conditions and fair salaries, safer schools and professional growth opportunities for teachers.  A five-week 2022 teachers’ strike for a living wage in response to  COVID pandemic and Ukraine war-related inflation earned teachers a significant salary increase, but regional economic challenges continue to threaten teachers’ well-being.  

The February 21 and 22 Pristina conference, supported by the Solidarity Center, united  stakeholders dedicated to enhancing mental health support in schools including SBASHK, the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Parliamentary Committee on Education, the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo (BSPK), the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), Slovenia Education Union (SVIZ), the Education Unions of Albania (SPASH and FSASH), Union of Education, Science and Culture North Macedonia (SONK), the Association of Municipalities, the Municipal Directorate of Education (MDE), the Council of Parents (KP), the Council of Youth (KYC), the Chamber of Doctors, the Chamber of Nurses, the Department of the Psychology/University of Pristina (DP), Kosovo Education Center (KEC), the Kosovo EdGuard Institute and the Kosovo Association of Independent Journalists (AGK).

Kosovo Workers Strike for Wage Relief

Kosovo Workers Strike for Wage Relief

Workers demanding relief from inflationary pressure on wages will launch a general strike on Thursday unless the Kosovo government grants public sector workers an emergency wage increase of almost $100 per month. This proposed amount will provide most public sector workers—including doctors and nurses—with an immediate 20 percent increase in lieu of a long-delayed wage law, says the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo (BSPK).

“It is the [failure of] the wage law that obliges us to go on strike,” says BSPK Chairperson Atdhe Hykolli, who announced that the work stoppage will last until the workers’ plea for relief is met.

According to BSPK, Kosovo’s workers and their families can no longer meet their basic needs due to historic inflation. The country’s inflation rate is inching higher each month, reaching a 14-year high of more than 14 percent in June and it increased again in July.

Escalating costs for food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing and utilities, and transportation are the main driver of inflationary pressure on wages in Kosovo. For the 12 months ending in June this year, the cost of transportation increased more than 30 percent while the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by more than 17 percent.  From 2003 through 2021, the country’s inflation rate was less than two percent per year. The average public sector worker’s take-home pay of $542 has not increased since 2021.

“The situation for workers in Kosovo is like those in many countries around the world: Rising costs coupled with stagnant wages is simply not sustainable,” says Solidarity Center Southeastern Europe Country Program Director Steven McCloud.

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