The country’s state schools are to open on Friday with serious shortages, teachers’ unions are complaining, amid fears in the ranks of SYRIZA that heavily understaffed schools could work against the leftist party in the countdown to general elections.
According to representatives of OLME and DOE, the unions representing teachers at secondary and primary schools respectively, there are up to 25,000 unfilled positions in the country’s education system. Government officials have offered a more modest estimate, with caretaker Education Minister Froso Kiaou putting the shortfall at 20,000 and the ministry’s general secretary Dimitris Hasapis at 17,000.
Kiaou said 12,000 short-term teachers would be hired with European Union structural funding, the only reliable source of funding with state coffers in their current dire state. Still, it remains unclear when exactly the 12,000 new staff will be hired. A ministry source told Kathimerini that the first hirings will take place in early October but that there will “be vacancies in basic subjects through December.”
Education sector officials are worried that shortages will be acute in some parts of the country and could oblige some schools to close. “The shortages are staggering,” according to Vassilis Paliyiannis, of the country’s central council for primary school education. “It is almost certain that on the day of the school blessing ceremony, many schools, especially in remote areas, won’t have a teacher,” he said.