Southern Italians 'should work harder,' education minister says

Marco Bussetti

NAPLES - During a visit to Afragola Friday, Minister of Education Marco Bussetti’s response to the question of whether funding should be increased to narrow the gap between Italy’s schooling in the North and in the South, was met with considerable backlash.

 Bussetti, member of the League, declared that it is not more funds, but more effort that schools in the south require. “More funds in the South? No, it takes the commitment of the South, you have to work hard,” he said.

 The Minster’s statement did not go unnoticed and consequently triggered much criticism, primarily among advocates of the Five Star Movement (M5S) in Campania, who considered the statement as being “contemptuous” towards the South.

 This tension adds to the series of controversies that continue to shake Italy’s yellow-green government alliance. Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio also voiced his view on the matter. “If a minister talks nonsense about schooling, he apologises. Full stop," he wrote on Facebook.

 “Marco, it is us, the Government, that evidently has to commit more and more. Particularly regarding schools, which require historical interventions for the unworthy conditions in which many are involved,” wrote Di Maio. “There are parents worried about the state of the buildings and there are students who are doing lessons in embarrassing conditions, we are the ones who have to do more, and everything we do will never be enough,” he concluded.

 Minister for Southern Italy Barbara Lezzi echoed Di Maio, saying “We have a contract to respect in which we are committed to closing the gap, in every sector, between the North and South. I fully agree with Luigi, apologising is the only way to placate the controversy.”

 Bussetti then defended himself, arguing that his statement was taken out of context. "A decontextualised video is being viewed online and used to represent a Minister as being hostile to the South ... And I am not. It would be ridiculous to think so,” he declared.

 Bussetti also wrote in a post on Facebook, “I know the realities of excellence that are in the South,” adding, “In the South, funds are needed, of course. Like everywhere. I am aware of it. But I also know that alone is not enough. That is what I said yesterday. We must also believe in ourselves, fight, roll up our sleeves. We need to know how to make better use of economic resources," he wrote.

 “Everything can be said except that I am a minister who looks contemptuously to the South. I believe that the facts speak for themselves,” concluded the minister.