Schools are place for education and not for political party promotions

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern over the fact that, in the current election campaign, school premises, property, technical resources, etc. are widely abused by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), regardless clear prohibitions by valid respective laws. The Law on the Election of Councilors and Members of Parliament prohibits the usage of property, technical resources, space and equipment of state public institutions, while the General Law on Education prohibits political (party) organization and activity as well as the use of space in public institutions for such purposes.

However, in spite of those explicit legal prohibitions the public is familiar with the fact that there are even more examples of these violations. Therefore, the CCE sent today an initiative to the Minister of Education, who has the legal authority in accordance with Article 80, paragraph 6 of the General Law on Education, to dismiss all directors of the schools where such meetings were held. This will be sort of the test for Slavoljub Stijepović, current Minister of Education and candidate for the mayor of Podgorica, to show if “all the citizens are on the first place” for him as it is emphasized in his campaign or, he prefers only citizens who vote for DPS.

It is the General Law on Education, that gave too much authorities to the Minister of Education in appointment and dismissal of school directors, which has been strongly criticized by CCE while the draft of the law was in process. Its result is state of affairs in which the schools are led by dominantly ‘suitable’ staff. Now is the time for the Minister to enforce his legal authority and to punish those who violated the law and who were appointed by the minister itself, regardless of what they think of his party.

Meetings of the ruling party held in the school facilities in Rožaje are an example that directors of those schools, and of many other Montenegrin schools, do not have full freedom in decision-making. They are clearly not on these positions as experts and managers who are supposed to be independent and impartial in making important decisions concerning respective schools. The fact that they are appointed and dismissed by the minister makes their position political, while the payment for the same is being activated, when necessary, and then they have to be at the service of the party together with all school accommodation facilities and resources for the work, regardless of the legal prohibitions. Repeated abuse of state resources for political purposes puts already seen pressure on the employees in education and makes them reconsider the manner of their voting at the elections.

Explanation of the lack of space for the promotion of any political party does not justify this act, taking into account that the political meetings can take place outside, and that in every municipality there is some kind of an alternative space that can be used for party promotions in line with the law.

CCE recalls that the laws must be respected and that they have to be equal for all, both for individuals and for the party entities, and that Montenegrin Government and the ruling party have a special responsibility for respect of the law.

CCE invites directors of all schools to stand up against the party campaign in the schools and every form of unacceptable political influence in schools, based solely on the letter of the law, because it threatens the primary goal of education – respect of human rights through spreading of democracy and tolerance amongst the employees and students who need to become responsible citizens of the society.

Mira Popović, Programme Associate