19 March 2019 • HOP, Melanie Zierse
Work pressure was an important reason for going on strike
The national strike in The Hague on Friday drew around 40,000 protesters. Demonstrators included lecturers and students from universities of applied sciences, who each had their own reason for participating.
The rolled up banners and folded up protest signs carried on the packed trains to The Hague, were enthusiastically pulled out upon arrival at the Malieveld on Friday afternoon. “Striking is silver, teaching is gold” reads one of the signs.
Despite the bad weather, all levels of education are represented at the strike, ranging from primary education to universities. Although everyone has their own interests and goals, one thing came through loud and clear: education is under a lot of pressure and in desperate need of funding. The trade unions demand an additional 4 billion euro investment across all sectors.
“There are several reasons why I am on strike,” explains Diana Wittendorp, lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Leiden. “The first reason is the increasing work pressure. Are you sick? In that case, the class will be rescheduled but nobody will replace me. It is very difficult to find substitute lecturers. At the end of the day you still have to teach that class, which means you have less time for other tasks. In that way you are not getting paid for sick leave. Whenever we offer a proposal to reduce the work pressure, we are told there is not enough money. Every year the number of students increases, which is great, of course. But at the same time there is no increase in funding.”
“I am also striking for my students. They no longer receive a basic grant. This means they are starting life with a huge student debt. We have been promised more investments in higher education, but I see very little evidence of that. Students are basically paying for it out of their own pockets.”
“But I am also striking for my own daughter. When teachers at her school call in sick, the children are divided over other classes. A group of thirty students gets another five students. This compromises the quality of my daughter’s education.
“I’m worried about two things”, says Bernard van Dijk, lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam, “the high work pressure and huge amount of administration. In the first year I have to review 3500 papers. To do a good job and give feedback, I need 1.5 hour per paper. But I only get paid for half an hour. Without good feedback the quality of education will go down.”
“And then there is the administration. Evaluating a subject takes time. I don’t have the hours to do this. All the time I dedicate to this, is at the expense of my teaching. And the administrative load only increases. I am very worried about this.”
Diana Wittendorp (41), lecturer in biology and medical lab research at the University of Applied Sciences Leiden, and her daughter