Strike stops school year before it begins

The new school year begins on Tuesday but it will be disrupted on Wednesday by a strike by primary school teachers and a three-hour work stoppage by their secondary school counterparts who are upset at staff shortages and an imminent round of new cuts to their wages.

The primary school teachers? federation (DOE) and that representing secondary school teachers (OLME) have called a strike following Tuesday?s religious ceremonies at 14,500 schools around the country to express their dissatisfaction with the government?s policies. Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos called on the 156,000 teachers to set aside their grievances and think of the needs of some 1.5 million pupils.

?Teachers are struggling to carry out their duties in very difficult conditions, with scant means and wages that are not worth the service they offer,? admitted Arvanitopoulos.

?However, national duty must come first. We have to save the country and schools must be protected. Despite the difficult conditions, we all have to outdo ourselves because the future of our homeland and our children is at stake.?

Arvanitopoulos said that all textbooks had been delivered to schools and 80 percent of the empty teaching spots had been filled. He pledged that substitute teachers would fill the rest as funds had been secured for up to 15,000 to be hired.

DOE said there is a shortage of about 10,000 teaching staff at primary schools, while OLME said secondary schools were missing 3,000 educators. The federations plan to distribute letters to parents on Tuesday to explain their grievances.

Teachers at private schools are also due to go on strike on Wednesday due to the government?s decision to bring their pay structure in line with civil servants, leading to a 40 percent reduction in their wages.

This will also be the first academic year when primary and secondary school teachers undergo evaluation. The Education Ministry is due to reveal its plans for the process at the beginning of next month. The ministry is also examining a reorganization of positions at schools with the aim of making teachers spend more hours in classrooms.

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