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President appoints Valachová as education minister

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Prague, June 17 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman appointed Katerina Valachova (for the Social Democrats, CSSD) as the new minister of education, youth and sports at Prague Castle Wednesday.

Valachova, 38, so far a deputy of Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD), replaces Marcel Chladek (CSSD) who was dismissed on June 5.

Valachova said during the appointment ceremony that she wants to turn the Education Ministry into “a ministry of the future” that would enhance the Czech Republic’s competitiveness.

“I’m looking forward to supporting both teachers and the other school staff in their uneasy task of providing quality education to our children,” Valachova said.

After the ceremony, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) introduced Valachova in her post.

Valachova told journalists that she will meet Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) later Wednesday to discuss the 2016 draft budget.

She said she will submit the demands formulated by her predecessor, Chladek, i.e. the school system’s budget increase by five billion crowns.

She called insufficient the Education Ministry’s budget increase by 2.5 billion crowns, as proposed by Babis in the draft 2016 state budget presented on Monday.

Sobotka said Babis’s draft is far from definitive and will be changed during the forthcoming budget negotiations.

Valachova is the third woman in the centre-left cabinet of Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), together with Labour Minister Michaela Marksova (CSSD) and Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (for ANO).

At the head of the Education Ministry, Valachova is the first woman since the departure of Miroslava Kopicova, who headed the ministry under Jan Fischer’s interim government in 2009-2010.

Since mid-2010, the ministry has been gradually headed by four men. In late May, Sobotka proposed that the last of them, Chladek, be sacked over suspected bossing practices.

Chladek dismissed all accusations.

Sobotka, nevertheless, said Chladek failed to meet the tough criteria applied to a minister’s performance.

Zeman always meets candidates for ministers before appointing them. He met Valachova at Prague Castle on June 11.

She then said she had agreed with Zeman on the basic principles of the Czech school system’s development. They mainly discussed vocational schools and possible changes to the apprentice centres system, she said.

The inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools was also discussed, she added.

Zeman said Wednesday he is glad at having agreed with Valachova on the need to support technical schools, as the country is short of technical experts.

In the 17-seat Czech cabinet, the CSSD occupies eight seats, ANO six and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) three.

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