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Štech is new Czech education minister shortly before election

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Prague, June 21 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman appointed Stanislav Stech (for Social Democrats, CSSD) new education minister at Prague Castle today, two days after he accepted the resignation of Katerina Valachova (CSSD) from the post.

Valachova decided to give up her post in May due a suspected fraud of sport subsidies in which her deputy Simona Kratochvilova is involved. Zeman tried to convince her to stay in the post because the general election would be held soon, but she insisted on her decision. He gave her more than two weeks to change her mind. She originally wanted to leave the cabinet at the end of May. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) criticised Zeman for postponing her dismissal.

The elections are due on October 20-21.

Stech, 62, is a professor of educational psychology. Having been deputy education minister, he is well acquainted with the ministry’s operation.

Zeman wished Stech all the best in the last four months of the election period. He thanked Valachova for her work and said they had excellent cooperation, although they had radically different opinions on inclusive education. He said Stech had the same view of inclusion as Valachova.

Valachova pushed through that students with special needs have the right to be educated in regular classes. Zeman believes that students with special needs should attend special schools and not be part of the general education programmes.

PM Sobotka, who inaugurated the new minister in his office today, said the main tasks that Stech should deal with by the autumn elections are the talks about the education budget and the financial demands of universities, the drawing of EU subsidies for education, and the subsidies for sport.

Stech said the universities have been receiving around 21 billion crowns a year from the state and he would like them to get five billion crowns more next year.

He said the subsidies for sport organisations should be paid out, however, the organisations must respect the new rules approved after the recent subsidy scandal.

Stech also said he would like to promote the rules for the teaching profession, which are now being discussed by parliament.

Valachova announced her resignation during a government crisis last month. Sobotka called on Deputy PM and Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) to leave the cabinet over suspected tax fraud and influencing of media, but Zeman backed Babis. Valachova said she would leave the cabinet so that Babis cannot use the sport subsidy fraud against the CSSD.

The police have accused Kratochvilova of striking deals with former head of the football association, Miroslav Pelta, on the distribution of investment subsidies.

($1=23.568 crowns)

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