People across Poland have protested a government plan to overhaul the education system, saying it would put thousands of teachers out of their jobs and lessen the quality of education.
About 2,000 people, including middle school teachers and primary school students, rallied in the capital Warsaw on Monday, shouting slogans such as “No to chaos” and “The death of Polish education.”
“We are afraid of losing our jobs, that chaos will take over in our schools. We don't know what is waiting for us in the future,” one of the protesting teachers told AFP.
Thousands of others took to the streets in at least 16 other cities across the country, demanding that the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party abandon its educational reform plan.
Teachers’ union leaders say the plan would result in larger classes and fewer teaching jobs.
The head of the Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) accused Minister of Education Anna Zalewska of steering the country's education system toward a “nationalistic” and “xenophobic” direction.
“Emphasizing history, literature and the Polish language is essential but these subjects cannot dominate the education system," Slawomir Broniarz said at the Warsaw rally.
"No one has ever received a Nobel prize in Polish history! We have received Nobels in physics, chemistry, and in economics -- these are the most important,” he added.
Zalewska, however, said the government would not withdraw from its plan and that the reforms were “thought-out, responsible and also the costs have been calculated.” She also promised that no teacher would be laid off as a result of the changes.
The PiS government has been under fire by critics for a series of other controversial moves undertaken since it assumed power in November 2015.
Last week, members of the Lower House of Parliament overwhelmingly voted against a controversial abortion legislation. The decision came after a nationwide strike was staged against the bill.