Concern in Poland about values as students abuse teachers.

17-10-2003

Poland is also asking questions about its youth. The nation was shocked last month when a video was aired on nationwide television showing 17 and 18-year-old students harassing and bullying their class teacher. Poles began asking why are young people hostile towards authority - and have parents failed to instil appropriate values in their new capitalist environment? They're also asking - will things be better in the EU?

The whole of Poland is outraged at the way Polish students have been acting at school recently. During an English lesson students from the third year at a Technical school in Torun, northern Poland, bullied their teacher for 45 minutes, and one of them even recorded the events on videotape! Later on, another group of students in Opole, in the south, went too far when harassing their chemistry teacher. Ignoring the teacher's request to behave, they swore, ate and acted provocatively, then stole her grade book and notes.

Zuzanna Czyewska a young English teacher in a typical secondary school, in a Warsaw drab high-rise district, says she's never experienced the aggression herself, but is aware of young people's frustrations:

"There's a whole grade of difference between students in a high school and a trade school. Students in high schools seem to be far more motivated than in trade schools as far as their attitude to teachers is concerned and to a subject. Now, students are sort of worse and worse as far as the behaviour is concerned, but I wouldn't say it became a norm."

When Communism collapsed in Poland it left behind urban ghettoes of poverty and negligence. In most cases these are the areas where the rebellious come from, say experts. Michal, who is 18, is very cynical about his life.

" School is just great, no, it's not? No comment... Many teachers are hopeless here. You can talk to the young ones, but the old who should have retired a long time ago, will give you a 'one' and there is nothing to talk about."

From what he and his friend Maciek, also 18, say, it's hard to draw at least a speck of optimism, either about today, or the future:

" Life's paranoid here. People after university can't find work. Those who do, get wretched salaries. I was in the states and in one week earned about 300$, it's more than some get for a month here. After an hour of work in Poland I'd buy 2 hamburgers in McDonald's, and in the States two whole meals! I can't see any prospects for the future here. The situation is really bad now and with all the scandals concerning the government and other politicians, it's very doubtful it will improve."

Maciek wearing a T-shirt saying 'screw the police' says he finds relief in the gym. Asked about the accession to the Union, they admit not to lay any hopes in that, seeming to be repeating the words of their parents:

" What can change for me in May when we join the EU? Maybe in 30 years time... When I finish school I will go back to the states. I already have a visa."

Young people are not optimistic that their prospects will improve when Poland joins the EU. They fear, as their parents do, new European regulations and new European prices. In a country with 20% of unemployment many young people in deprived areas have given up even hoping for miracles.

17-10-2003