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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Schooling 'mix up' hits Portugal
By Alison Roberts
BBC correspondent in Lisbon

Portuguese children. Archive picture
Pupils hope they will be able to meet their teachers next week
Thousands of schools in Portugal have had to turn away pupils at the start of the academic year because teachers do not know where they will be working.

Under Portugal's centralised system, teachers are sent across the country according to official lists drawn up over the summer.

But a mix up at the education ministry means that some 50,000 teachers are not yet assigned to their schools.

The Portuguese school year officially began on Thursday.

Teachers 'stuck'

But it is at best a symbolic start for thousands of schools.

Because of the mix up at the education ministry, nearly 50% of the 120,000 teachers employed by the state don't even know in which part of the country they'll be working.

Under Portugal's system, teachers are servants of the republic, sent out across the country through the official lists.

Some teachers are permanently based in a region, but must wait each year to find out exactly where in that region they'll be working.

Only the minority of teachers who have tenure at a school know for sure where they will be.

Sorting out 'mess'

The system has proved vulnerable to IT mix ups in the past, creating problems for teachers trying to plan their lives.

This time the mess has dragged on into the school year, causing inconvenience to children and parents too.

The current situation varies by region.

The ministry says 70% of schools in the Algarve, the far south, were able to open their doors on Thursday morning, while in central Portugal just 46% of schools did.

Figures for other regions weren't released, but unions say that around Lisbon up to 90% of schools couldn't admit children on the first day of school.

The unions are demanding to know who's responsible for the mess and have cast doubt on the ministry's promise that the list will finally be published on Monday.

Country profile: Portugal
21 Jan 04  |  Country profiles

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