The ministers of education and the interior agreed yesterday to expand a program under which jobless people are employed to guard schools against intruders and vandals, who cause extensive damage every year. According to Manolis Baltas, chairman of the Education Ministry’s Organization for School Buildings (OSK), his department has spent an average 12 billion annually over the past few years to repair damage caused by vandals. Much of the destruction was wreaked during school sit-ins by pupils opposed to reforms in the education system. And several schools are used for drug-dealing and drug-taking by addicts who frequently vandalize classrooms and indulge in petty theft. Under a program launched last year, some 2,000 people, mainly unemployed, were hired on eight-month contracts to guard schools. This was a great success, according to the chairman of the secondary school teachers’ union, Nikos Tsoulias. But the program left schools unguarded during the summer. Yesterday, Education Minister Petros Efthymiou and Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis agreed that guards’ contracts should automatically be renewed, while the program – which is jointly financed by the European Union and the Greek government – will be expanded next year to include most large cities. Yesterday, the president of the Athens Parents’ Federation, Thomas Tsoupos, said schools all over the country should be guarded on a regular basis. I think we should not only focus on areas where there have been problems in the past, he said. The program should be pre-emptive.