Minister gives mobile number to 50,000 teachers

An Argentinian minister has handed out his personal mobile phone number to every teacher in Buenos Aires in a bid to improve the fractious relationship between politicians and the workforce.

Esteban Bullrich, education minister for Buenos Aires, said he took the unusual step after the city was hit with waves of strikes over pay.

He first gave his number to headteachers but then announced it on national television once it became clear he needed to take drastic steps to improve the relationship with the city’s 50,000 teachers.

“My mobile rang at 2am but I missed it because I was asleep,” Mr Bullrich said at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. “But I sleep with my phone next to my bed and I picked up the message. It was this teacher blasting at me, saying I hadn’t paid his salary, saying some bad words about my mother and my sister.

“I phoned [the teacher] back at 2.15am. I said, ‘Hello, this is the minister.’ There was this silence, and then this guy said, ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t know it was you, I thought this was a joke.’ We had a chat.”

The politician now sets aside between 60 and 90 minutes a day to respond to the 80-100 phone calls or texts he receives.

“The school system is big, but the news spread very quickly. It is very easy for me to communicate through the system just by answering calls. It’s like a hotline,” he said.

Earlier this month, England’s education secretary Nicky Morgan took part in her second “conference call with the teaching profession”, but it’s highly unlikely she would follow Mr Bullrich’s lead and take calls at 2am.

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