01-09-2003

Education Minister Petra Buzkova (right), photo: CTKEducation Minister Petra Buzkova (right), photo: CTK Two domestic stories dominate today's front pages - the teachers strike, which Lidove Noviny describes as the biggest teachers' protest in the country's history, and the death of the former culture minister, writer and journalist Pavel Tigrid in Paris.

There are mixed reactions to the teachers' strike. Pravo notes that only a third of Czechs support the strike, a fact that has teachers complaining that the teaching profession is not given due credit in this country. Lidove Noviny says that although teachers deserve to be better paid, it was clear from the outset that this is not the way to go about it.

It makes little difference to parents whether their children start school on September 1st or September 2nd, the paper notes, so the impact of this strike will be minimal. What then is the point of holding it?

Hospodarske Noviny reminds readers that a teachers' strike in 1997 fizzled out without anything significant to show for it, but suggests that after months of futile negotiations teachers probably needed to make a dramatic statement. They needed to be seen and heard, to make society feel that their work is important, no matter the outcome of the strike, Hospodarske Noviny says.

So, how do schoolchildren feel about the one day strike? Pravo's reporter joined a group of fifth graders for a chat and came away with a headline-making statement: if only it could last for a whole month, one of them said. Another said his mother had been surprised to hear it was just a one day strike, wondering aloud what difference it could possibly make. She was surprised it wasn't longer, the boy said. One good thing came out of the strike though, Pravo says, because of the extra one day holiday there was no road congestion which annually marks the last day of the summer holidays and results in dozens of casualties. Since half of the country's school children could return home a day late traffic was smooth and problem free. Traffic police are said to have been delighted with this unexpected bonus.

Mlada Fronta Dnes reports on an unprecedented operation performed by specialists in Prague's Motol hospital. Doctors operated on a young man who is completely paralyzed as a result of spinal injuries, injecting stem cells from his own bone marrow into the damaged spinal cord. It is one of the first operations of this kind in the world - and certainly the first in the Czech Republic - the paper reports. Doctors are hoping that the stem cells will result in the growth of nerve tissue and re-connect the severed spinal cord.

On a different topic the paper reports that as of today the Czech Republic will no longer be able to import diamonds and other precious stones. The country is on a list of embargoed states because the government has so far failed to approve a law on trade in precious stones. With no control mechanisms and no law in place diamonds could be used in money-laundering or to finance international crime rings, Mlada Fronta Dnes says. The paper notes that although the ban will not have a serious economic impact it will damage the country's reputation, which is just as bad - if not worse- for business.

And finally, Mlada Fronta Dnes has snapshots of 11 year old Korfu and seven year old Lorraine coming home. Korfu and Lorraine are Sumatra tigers from the Prague Zoo who were given a temporary home in the Hradec Kralove Zoo after their home in Troja was devastated by last years' flood. On Sunday they were welcomed back to renovated quarters and treated to a special homecoming meal.

01-09-2003