By Ismet Hajdari
„I cannot focus,“ Belul told me when I asked him why he didn’t write as, in addition to his ability to deliver an exceptional academic debate, it was the thing he did best despite the serious illness he had been struggling with for the last few years.
Towards the end, when he became bedridden, he was upset over the fact that the deadline for the article he wrote once a month for the section „Pristinska veza“ was approaching without him writing a single word. He planned to write a text about the teachers’ strike that completely blocked the new school year.
„You know what, my fellow professor (how we privately addressed each other),“ I suggested to him while he was in the hospital, „give me the main theses or the outline of what you want to say. I will put it into text. I’ll have it done in no time,“ I told him. He didn’t promise me anything. I thought he wouldn’t be able to do this and that he would give up. I decided not to bother him anymore. Two days later, only one day before he sadly passed away, Belul sent what I suggested to him via Viber.
The Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo (BSPK) announced a strike of educators demanding a wage increase ahead of the start of the new school year. The new wage law, which is in the process of being adopted, stipulates that teachers in elementary schools will have a monthly salary of around 670 euros, while their colleagues in secondary schools will have around 700 euros. Due to the complicated adoption procedure, in the best case scenario, the law on wages could come into force only in the middle of the next year, the unions then demanded that the government pay all educators 100 euros per month until that time. The government rejected this proposal and, haggling like at some bazaar, offered 50 euros, which the unions refused.
The tragic side of the strike
„Successful politics is an activity that finds practical answers to practical questions“ – reads Belul’s main thesis for the article about the irrational war waged by educators and the Government of Kosovo for almost a month. Each of the sides of the conflict claimed that the other was to blame for the children being out of school for so long and even the most ideal agreement between the warring parties, even if it were to be reached as you read this, would never succeed in making up for what was lost – a whole month of education of the schoolchildren. And there lies the biggest tragedy of the educators’ strike. It is growing and will keep growing, becoming more destructive as the strike drags on.
What „practical answers to practical questions“ Belul spoke about? Those who regularly read his fiercely critical texts can easily conclude that he stands up for the students – those who suffer the most in the war between the Government and the unions. If he could, I’m sure he would mainly criticize the government. „How can they do something like that?“ he told me. The government does not have to respond to every request for a wage increase from any sector, because it is still a matter of budget potential and negotiations with the unions, but it is unacceptable to go to war with the unions at the expense of the children who pay the highest price due to the strike.
As a result, this is an alarming violation of children’s and students’ rights to education. Instead of arrogance, the successful policy of the warring parties should have, before the conflict even broke out, ensured the protection of the interests of the youngest generations and amortization of the government-union attack on them by, for example, starting classes on time, with school taking place either in the format of reduced class time, even-odd system (where children go to school every other day), online or in some other practical way that minimizes the damage caused to the students who are forced to sit at home instead of going to school. In this way, after the loss their education suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new crisis now appeared in which it seems as if the government and the unions intend to drive the final nails into the educational coffin.
„Coffin?“ – those are my words, not Belul’s. Do you think they are too harsh? No, they are not. For Belul, who mercilessly branded all the anomalies of society in the making, overly strong words and qualifications were a way to expose the truth and point the finger at those responsible for these anomalies. Perhaps you can find more literate academics in Pristina, but not ones who are intellectually braver and more honest than him. Despite all the dangers, he did not, like other analysts, say what the public wanted to hear – he spoke the truth. That was his greatest quality. I don’t know if this academic courage can be found in anyone else to the extent it could be found in Belul.
Where did the mad race between the government and the unions come from?
„Why does the mad race between unions and the authorities continue when the current outcome is disastrous for everyone,“ Belul asked. The answer to the question of where the „mad race“ comes from, my dear fellow professor, is easily answered. The government thinks it has the mandate to interpret the strike both politically and professionally, gambling with regular school attendance by around 300,000 students and falling into its own trap of arguments. „The authorities assess that three-quarters of the educational staff are not professionally fit for work, and then, at the same time, they insist that these three-quarters return to work,“ Belul noted lucidly. On the other hand, the unions (asleep all year only to wake up from their winter sleep before September 1st) smartly estimate that their strongest argument lies in the psychological pressure created by the school blockade, for which the majority accuses the government by rote.
After he sent me the theses and rough guidelines for the text, he reached out to me again. „My fellow professor, is it pretentious to accuse the strikers that they are not against the minister (of education) and the government, but that their goal is the prime minister?“ – read his short message.
„I agree, it’s more than pretentious because it introduces political crackdown as a new category in the educational system,“ I told him, adding that there are enough ideas for the first draft and that I would get back to him soon. „When the dough is mixed well, the bread will turn out great,“ I told him.
„I’m tired,“ he answered.
„Rest, now. And expect the first draft,“ I wrote to him.
He didn’t reach out to me again. Early the next morning (September 25), his eldest daughter and his favorite Adea announced that Belul had passed away.
A text the author will never read
Having known Belul for more than three decades, I give myself the freedom to connect all his dots and arrange them authentically into one whole and one text. Unfortunately, he will never read this unfinished text, of which he is the true author. But this text will be read by his faithful readers. That was also his goal. Belul will no longer miss Kosovo because he gave everything he could for it to be civil and in the service of its citizens. But Kosovo will miss him terribly because it will take a long time for another Belul to be born.
P.S. Officially, upon the news of Belul’s death, only the Minister of Education expressed her condolences as a matter of protocol. What was left missing regarding the death of such a great man as Belul was the reaction of those whose duty it is to speak on behalf of the nation: the president and the prime minister. It says more about them. It also confirms that Belul did not spare them in his criticism. And that he was right in doing so.
Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.