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POLITICS

Italy’s cabinet green-lights school reform bill

Italy's cabinet on Thursday adopted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's school reform bill, which he said would see 100,000 substitute teachers given permanent contracts and extra funds designated for teacher development.

Italy's cabinet green-lights school reform bill
Students protesting against the Italian government's school reforms on October 10th, 2014 in Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello

"The school reform is the most important for the country, we are proud of it," Renzi told journalists, brushing off criticism that he has watered down a project which initially promised to make the system more meritocratic.

The bill, which still has to go before parliament, has sparked protests in the north of the country on Thursday, with hundreds of student demonstrators clashing with riot police in Milan.

"The ball is now in parliament's court. The proposals can be implemented fairly quickly, with great intensity, if parliament works with a sense of urgency. I am very optimistic," Renzi said.

The PM said the bill would give schools greater autonomy by making it the school head's job to handpick teachers, and bring greater transparency to the system, with curriculum vitae and school financial records made public online.

Teachers would also be given a 500-euro ($530) bonus each year to be spent on cultural activities, such as tickets to a concert.

Renzi said a previous plan to scrap salary rises linked to years in the job had been dropped, but insisted it did not mean the government was going back on promises to reward excellence, with €200,000 earmarked for bonuses.

Permanent contacts will be rolled out for 100,000 substitute teachers by September 2015 if the bill goes through, with others following for 23,000 nursery school teachers a year later.

In November last year the European Court of Justice ordered Italy to regularize substitute teachers who had worked for over 36 months on precarious, short-term contracts. Italian media at the time put the number concerned at 250,000.

Renzi, who has made the school reform one of the cornerstones of his mandate, said pre-school children would get English lessons and history of art and music would return to the curriculum.

POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived on Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Meloni’s trip – her second to a North African country this week – is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.

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