The Trial I
“The Trial” (German title: “Der Prozess”) is a novel written by Franz Kafka in 1925 – well-known from school in Germany. K. finds himself in a grotesque unreal world without basic rights. His trial ends with his execution.
In summer 2020, I got a call that I may not apply as a substitute teacher anymore – after 16 years, in which I have been a substitute teacher from primary school to high school. This employment ban seemed strange. In this context, the first of a series was created.
The Trial II
The trial begins. The judge calls us in. The lawyer and I are there. Because of the pandemic, we are wearing face masks and are separated through glass panes. The judge frowns and asks us if we are alone. There is no representative from the state around. Just as he starts, someone opens the door. A person enters the room and says: “Oh, I’m from the state, I’m too late.” … without words …
The Trial III
The Trial continues. We are in another room now, a bigger one. The judge is now three people. Everything’s blurry – their faces are unrecognizable, and I’m not in the picture, even though I’m attending the process. It seems like I’m invisible. It is all about numbers: too many contracts – then too few, everything is brought up against me by the representative from the state. It’s not the “I am from the state, I’m too late”-person anymore – this time, the person looks like a bouncer who just emerged from Kafka’s Trial. This whole situation is kafkaesque: We’re all wearing a face mask, separated by glass panels. The only person not wearing a mask is the bouncer from the state. All he does is looking at the door, no greeting, no eye-contact. The only thing he says is: “No”.
Despite this nightmarish situation, we feel that the judge is on our side. Still, if he decides in our favor the state will continue trying until some judge decides for the state.
Therefore, the judge pushes towards an agreement, a deal. With a gesture, the bouncer dismisses our lawyers’ offer.
The settlement is ridiculously low. When we eventually agreed to the offer, the bouncer declared that the state didn’t allow him that decision.
In my fantasy, the judge jumps over the table. Of course, that didn’t happen in reality. Instead, he takes a few deep breaths, frowns, and allows the state up to two weeks to enter an objection.
An objection didn’t happen. The settlement didn’t arrive until the new year.
March 8th. The minister of education gives an interview. She says that students and retired teachers should help pupils to catch up on the missed learning material since schools are opening up again despite the pandemic.
With my experience of the process, I’m asking myself: why are qualified teachers, who offer to work at schools during the pandemic, pushed aside with a settlement, when there’s a need for them? But it seems to be all about the money, the cost because students and retired teachers are less expensive than the teaching staff with 16 years of experience in schools. The latter ones seem to be too expensive. On the other hand, those who don’t fit into the concept, are not welcome. They are too diverse.
Should education be voluntary? Education? What Education?
2021, Oil Paint on Canvas, each 40×50 cm