Running the length of the Vienna U-Bahn

Ultra-marathon runner and teacher Simon Horowitz will attempt to run the length of the entire Vienna metro system (U-Bahn) on Friday to raise awareness of the Teach for Austria project.

Running the length of the Vienna U-Bahn
Simon Horowitz running in last year's event. Photo: Teach for Austria

It’s the second year running he’s taken on this challenge and this year’s event will, he told The Local, “be bigger and better”.

In total 70 teachers plan to run the 86km of the U-Bahn network as a relay, starting at 03:30am. They will follow the U-Bahn network overground, and will be joined or replaced by other teachers at various stages of the run.

500 schoolchildren will join for the last 5km, from Praterstern to Donaustadtbrücke, and finish the run with the teachers.

Last year Horowitz’s goal was to run “as far as possible” and he managed 70km (every U-Bahn line except the U6). This year he is running with a colleague, Matthias Stiegl, and although they aim to run the whole distance he admits they may struggle, with the temperature on Friday forecast to hit a sizzling 32C.

The event has attracted major sponsors this year, including Deloitte, Lotto Wien, Wien Energie and the Runtastic app team. Horowitz aims to raise €20,000, which would help make educational opportunities available for more than 10,000 socially disadvantaged children.

But he said that his main goal is to “show our school kids, who mainly come from socially and financially disadvantaged families, that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.”

“Secondly we want to get more children interested in sport and an active lifestyle and last but not least we are collecting money for the fundraising campaign, so that Teach For Austria can continue to train and send motivated graduates into difficult schools and try to inspire children's lives.”

Horowitz, who is originally from the UK but has lived in Vienna since 2010, wants his students to be able to think positively about their future, and aim high.

He is a Teach for Austria fellow at a Neue Mittelschule, a school for children between the ages of 10 to 14. Typically over 95% of students are from immigrant or refugee families – and many are still struggling to learn German.

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Austrian MPs give green light to headscarf ban in primary schools

Austrian MPs on Wednesday approved a law aimed at banning the headscarf in primary schools, a measure proposed by the ruling right-wing government.

Austrian MPs give green light to headscarf ban in primary schools
Illustration Photo: AFP

So as to avoid charges that the law discriminates against Muslims, the text refers to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head”.

However, representatives of both parts of the governing coalition, the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), have made it clear that the law is targeted at the Islamic headscarf.

FPOe education spokesman Wendelin Moelzer said the law was “a signal against political Islam” while OeVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from “subjugation”.

The government says the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish kippa would not be affected.

Austria's official Muslim community organisation IGGOe has previously condemned the proposals as “shameless” and a “diversionary tactic”.

The IGGOe says that in any case only a “miniscule number” of girls would be affected.

Opposition MPs almost all voted against the measure, with some accusing the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.

The government admits that the law is likely to be challenged at Austria's constitutional court, either on grounds of religious discrimination or because similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs.

The OeVP and FPOe formed a coalition in late 2017 after elections in which both parties took a tough anti-immigration stance and warned of the dangers of so-called “parallel societies”.