State education up in the air

Students protesting controversial reforms to the higher education sector Monday continued their occupation of dozens of university faculties across the country, with unions saying that the number of sit-ins had exceeded 230.

The unions are to start convening from Tuesday to decide on what form upcoming protests will take against the reforms, which pave the way for independent evaluations of university academics, set restrictions on the length of time students have to complete degrees and abolish university asylum — a ban on the presence of police officers on university grounds. Left-leaning students staged protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki last Thursday that were small by Greek standards and relatively peaceful. As students return from their summer vacations over the coming days and weeks, the rallies are expected to grow in size and intensity.

There was upheaval of a different kind Monday at the primary and secondary education level as it emerged that most state schools have yet to receive the necessary text books for the next academic year, which begins next week.

The Greek Publishing Organization of Educational Books, known by its acronym OEDB, issued a statement Monday, pledging that 70 percent of the books will have been delivered by the second half of October. In the meantime, teachers and pupils will have to make do with photocopied sections of the relevant textbooks and DVDs containing course material. According to some estimates, each school will have to produce around 7,000 photocopied pages per day to meet course demands.

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou Monday apologized for the ?inconvenience,? blaming a bureaucratic holdup, and said that all possible action was being taken to get the books to schools as quickly as possible.

Another looming problem at state schools this year is acute understaffing due to the decision by many teachers to opt for early retirement in 2011. Some 6,000 teachers retired this year while only 546 permanent staff have been appointed so far to replace them.

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