Greek school reopens

The private Greek school in Heimarra, Albania, that has been closed since 1946 will officially open its doors in September after the Albanian government granted the school an operating license earlier this month. A meeting earlier this month between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha in Thessaloniki greased the wheels for the deal 60 years after the former communist regime in Albania closed the school. The school, financed by Greece, has actually been operating since February but it is not officially licensed. Greek-Albanians and the Greek government had been asking for the school’s re-opening for years, throughout the rule of hardliner Enver Hoxha, but had been rebuffed. Hoxha’s administration said repeatedly that Heimarra was not in a minority zone, therefore such a school could not exist. To overcome the fine print regarding minority zones, the school will operate as a joint Greek-Albanian institution under the auspices of the Homer program, financed by the Greek state but which operates in both countries. The school will have both primary and junior high school classes as well as Greek and Albanian teachers. If students show excellent knowledge of both languages, they will be able to continue their studies at universities in either country. Vassilis Bolanos, minority mayor of Heimarra, says the Greek school will serve as a «beacon for future generations.» He adds that «such moves strengthen the bridges of friendship between the two peoples and eases Albania’s course toward the European Union.» The Heimarra school was founded in 1870 by Cosmas Aetolos, a Greek Orthodox monk from Aetolia, and operated until Hoxha shut it down. Its reopening was facilitated by years of struggle by Heimarra residents who wanted the Albanian state to recognize its Greek presence. Language schools Thousands of Albanians go to private language schools to learn Greek so they can work at one of the 200-plus Greek companies operating in Albania. The Greek language schools are also the best way to help Albanians get ready to move to Greece to work. Such schools operate all over the country but the diplomas of proficiency in Greek are not considered official, so they can’t be used to obtain work in Greece. Diplomatic sources say there is a need for some kind of government institution to recognize documents and diplomas from such schools. For example, they could follow the example of the Italian learning institutes in Albania, from which graduates have official documents recognizing that the students know the language.