Schools start without textbooks

On the first day of the academic year on Monday, unions expressed serious concerns about shortages of textbooks and teachers at schools across the country.

The head of the Primary School Teachers? Federation (DOE), Komninos Mantas, said he and his colleagues were preparing for the ?worst school year in Greece?s history.?

Even Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, who was heckled during a visit to a primary school in the northern Athens suburb of Aghios Paraskevi, acknowledged that this would be ?a difficult year for everyone.?

According to DOE, the book shortages – attributed by Diamantopoulou to a bureaucratic holdup – are acute.

Of the country?s 70 regions, 23 had seen no books at all delivered to schools by Monday while schools in other areas had received only 15 to 20 percent of the books required for the academic year.

?There is no way we are going to have the books before Christmas,? said Mantas, the DOE union head, dismissing pledges by authorities that most of the books will have been delivered by the end of October.

The majority of schools in Attica, Piraeus and Thessaloniki had not received any textbooks by on Monday, according to DOE, which said Greece had not seen such a serious problem with books since the civil war.

The ministry responded that some parts of the country were covered, noting that the islands and remote areas had received 80 percent of the required textbooks.

To counter the problem in the rest of the country, the state print works has been working overtime, reeling off thousands of photocopies of textbook pages. The photocopying departments of universities and municipal authorities have joined the effort too.

But the dearth of books is not the only problem. Teachers are in short supply too, according to DOE, which spoke of more than 4,700 vacancies at state schools and has called a 24-hour strike for September 22 to protest the shortfalls.

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