From the Weeklies

This week's supplement of the daily PRAVO carries a rather sad story called A Life With Leukemia. A PRAVO reporter visited the Motol hospital in Prague, where child patients from all over the Czech Republic undergo treatment for this lethal disease. One of the mothers who spend their days with their sick children in hospital says: "There's only a twenty percent chance that your child will stay alive, the doctor told me, and I'm glad to be aware of it." She's pictured carrying her 2-year-old son Martin in her arms, but she can't go too far from his bed. The little boy has tubes leading into his body via which he receives new blood and artificial nourishment. Little Martin has been in hospital for eight consecutive months and his mother spends most of the time playing with him and doing embroidery.

Nurse Lenka Novakova confessed to the magazine that she and many of her colleagues were considering the possibility of having a child much more seriously. "I can't imagine what I would do if I had to go through such an ordeal as a mother," she says. She says she's spent many nights in tears, as she's started feeling like a mother to her little patients who stay longer than a few months. Her hematological ward is not only for those suffering from leukemia; children suffering from poor blood coagulation and severe anemia are also treated here. Twenty-seven regular and twenty-eight intensive care beds are occupied by children from around the whole country. The head of the ward, doctor Vladimir Komrska, told PRAVO magazine that there were only two ways of leaving his ward: either home or for the hospital's pathology department.

The hospital includes a transplant unit which is the only place in the Czech Republic where bone-marrow transplants are carried out. But Doctor Komrska told PRAVO that even now it's working in improvised conditions. Children waiting for transplants lose their old bone marrow and consequently lack any immunity. They must be kept in a 100-percent sterilized environment, but we only have two plastic tents, conditions which no longer exist in advanced Western hospitals, Doctor Komrska explained to PRAVO magazine.

Under the title "Death is My Business", this week's TYDEN carries a probe into funeral services in the Czech Republic, uncovering the ferocious competition between them. The weekly says that the human body has become the object of profitable business on its last journey; individual funeral services are at war over the dead bodies and there are several juicy stories percolating in the Czech Republic, which some people laugh at because they simply can't believe them.

In the Moravian town of Prostejov, for instance, an undertaker from a rival company came to a family whose father died three days ago and started claiming that the funeral directors they had chosen were keeping their father's body in a barn, where it was going black and green like a pistachio nut. During the funeral they found out that the agent had made it all up, but the emotional damage was done. The whole affair could have been black comedy if only it hadn't been just one of the many, says TYDEN.

The magazine points to the fact that funeral services are a business like any other, that's why this kind of 'business' can be approached in many ways, but always with one goal: to get rich as quickly and easily as possible. A funeral service mostly rents a room in a hospital and when the survivors come to pick up the dead person's belongings, the undertaker offers them his company's services. These companies prefer big hospitals, where a large number of patients die every day. And it often happens that they bribe doctors, who then serve them as 'suppliers'. Rumour has it that the bribes differ, ranging from several hundred crowns in small towns to several thousand in the capital.

The magazine carries advice to relatives, saying they have the right to choose any funeral service, even in the case that the body has been transported to a company they had not actually chosen. It also recommends that a funeral should be arranged by a person who is not too emotionally involved, otherwise he could be trapped by an unreliable company.

RESPEKT magazine ponders the situation at Czech universities. The infamous situation is widely known, it says: every year, tens of thousands of applicants receive a letter from the university they'd chosen saying there is no place for them there in the coming school year. Crowds of rejected secondary-school graduates thus become potential clients of Czech labour offices.

At the same time, EU statistics reveal an interesting fact: namely that the Czech Republic, as far as the number of university students in other European countries is concerned, comes bottom of the list. The World Bank's recipe is this: introduce school fees and ensure that everybody is capable of taking out a loan if he or she doesn't have enough money. This solution seems to be viable for both the university rectors and the banks, but entirely opposed so far are the Czech government and Parliament.

The number of unemployed university graduates forms just two percent of those on the dole and people seem to be well aware of this fact. That's why the demand for university education is on the rise. According to some opposition MPs, the demand would be met if the number of university students grew twofold. But that would mean increased expenditure on education, which is a problem the Czech Cabinet doesn't intend to tackle, concludes RESPEKT.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES magazine ponders what a typical Czech teacher looks like, against a nationwide competition for the best-loved teacher. The magazine notes that each of the 200,000 teachers in the country has on average seven children "standing against" him, that's one and a half million pupils and students. Women form three quarters of the total number of teachers in the Czech Republic. The biggest groups are ladies slightly over 30 and those between 50 and retirement age--both groups making up 27 percent of Czech teachers.

A male teacher is usually over 30, works 10 hours a day, and although he usually has to give private lessons in order to compensate for his very low salary, he would never quit his job. He is his pupils' darling, and they often call him by his first name. Usually he doesn't speak any foreign language. And he has something in common with all teachers worldwide; at home with his family, he often forgets that he's not at school, talking to his pupils.