Problems mar start of school

TAGS: Education, Politics

The Greek school year got off to an inauspicious start Monday, with teachers’ unions slamming Education Minister Nikos Filis over staff shortages and for undermining education standards.

At primary schools in the districts of Pallini, Keratea, Aghios Stefanos and other areas in eastern Attica, some 31 classes began the semester without teachers, while according to primary school teacher associations in Crete, there was a shortage off 379 teachers in the island’s capital of Iraklio alone.

In light of the chaotic start to the year, the union of primary school teachers, DOE, has announced a 24-hour strike Wednesday.

According to critics, the government’s pledge to reduce the number of temporary transfers of teachers to other schools – which was seen as one of the reasons behind shortages at state-run schools – by 30 percent was not adhered to, as some 1,900 transfers were registered this year, coming to the same amount as in previous years.

The teachers branch of the PAME labor union also lambasted Filis, saying the numbers simply didn’t add up, as not enough substitute teachers have been hired to cover staff shortages.

“How could there not be shortages when, so far, less than 8,000 substitute teachers have been hired while last year 23,000 had been hired, leaving 3,000 vacancies, and 1,000 teachers went into retirement over the summer?” the union said, adding that there are 3,000 teacher vacancies.

The ministry has so far hired 7,340 teachers at primary and secondary schools – with another 2,000 in the works – but critics say that will fall short of filling vacancies.

The New Democracy-backed teachers union, DAKE, also jumped into the fray, insisting that the new school year had begun under the “worst possible conditions” and accusing Filis of passing a series of measures to offset the huge shortages,which not only failed to resolve the problems but also undermined education standards.

Teachers associations of biologists and physicists also took a swipe at the education minister for failing to deal with the problems and of pursuing “demagoguery” in his education policies.

“The ministry’s leadership insists on presenting a false normality in public education, completely disregarding the quality standards that must exist,” the union of Greek physicists said, accusing Filis of performing PR stunts at the expense of students and teachers.