NEWS

Complaints, fears, requests for help

Most kindergartens have a playground but not much equipment. Classrooms are noisy, buildings old and poorly maintained. Washrooms are in need of repair and many of the kindergartens are close to mobile phone transmitters. Another problem is the lack of infrastructure for children with physical disabilities. These were just some of the problems found in the city’s kindergartens during the survey headed by sociologists Yitsa Kottaridi and Maria Malikiosi-Loizou. Some of the finds were the following: * Most kindergartens are not housed in independent premises but in other schools. Seven in 10 kindergarten teachers are not satisfied with the maintenance of the school, particularly their age. * At two-thirds of kindergartens, there is enough outdoor space for the children but most teachers feel that playground equipment is not adequate. Well over two-thirds do not have swings, see-saws, slides or a garden. However, indoors the situation is better, with nearly all having playhouses, musical instruments, art materials and libraries. * Half of the schools have adequate washroom facilities, most are well-heated in winter but two-thirds of teachers said the kindergarten buildings are too hot in the summer. * Over half of all kindergartens are on a busy street, but in most cases (over 70 percent) school gates are adequately patrolled, although half do not have the services of a traffic police officer. * Some kindergartens (less than a fifth) were situated close to mobile phone aerials, although within international guideline limits. However, over half of all teachers did not know if the school was close to a transmitter. A large number of children (four in 10) said they were afraid of going out after dark. A small percentage (15 percent) said that even their parents felt unsafe in the streets at night, yet most children resisted suggestions from their parents to move elsewhere, mostly (86.7 percent) because of the friendships they had formed. Habit is another reason, since around half said they had always lived in the same neighborhood. According to Ralli-Valsamaki, questioned on the survey results in advance of next week’s local elections, there are plans to staff each of the city’s seven municipal districts with psychologists and social workers. «Unfortunately, many children have problems, particularly those from broken homes, or those whose parents are unemployed. There are children with learning difficulties, for whom teachers need advice from experts,» said Ralli-Valsamaki. There are 478 schools within the municipality of Athens; at about 200 of them there have been calls for maintenance. «There should be a team of technicians in every municipal district to deal immediately with minor repairs,» she added. Teachers often complain about municipal technicians taking their time, often due to the fact that municipal services are spread out over a large number of departments, one for each separate phase of the job.