NEWS

Institute showcases years of history in Greek schools

An Education Museum has quietly opened in the northern Greek town of Veria, where the disappearance of 11-year-old Alex Meshivili brought intensive media scrutiny earlier this year. The museum, which started operating at the beginning of this school year, has a broad and impressive collection of exhibits, which center around Greek education and its history since the Turkish occupation, through the difficult years of the 20th century, and to the present day. Teaching methods, documents on educational reforms and hundreds of school textbooks have been collected over decades by Christos Tsokalakis, professor emeritus at Thessaloniki University’s primary education department, and his colleagues. Tsokalakis was inspired to begin his collection after protocols were issued by the 1967-74 military junta ordering the incineration of books. Instead, the professor and his associates saved the material. For some years, Tsokalakis looked for a sponsor for the museum. He asked the mayor of Thessaloniki and previous ministers for culture and Macedonia-Thrace, but received no response. Then Veria Mayor Christos Skoubopoulos showed interest. Within two years he had provided a site for the museum: a former marines’ training center on a pine-covered hill on the city’s outskirts. Displays on the museum’s walls include a range of items – school uniforms and bags, maps, photographs of long-gone teachers, parchments, inkwells, old-fashioned slates, computers, even stuffed birds. One exhibit of school textbooks traces the changeover from the formal «katharevousa» language to the demotic. «There are books by writers linked to the language debate that divided the country until 1976,» said Tsokalakis. Exhibits on prominent figures in the development of Greek education system are also displayed, such as Manolis Triantafyllidis, Alexandros Delmouzos, Miltos Koundaras and Evangelos Papanoutsos. One display is devoted to the books «The Little Eagles» and «Free Greece,» written during the resistance by teacher Michalis Papamavros. Books published under the Metaxas dictatorship (1936-1940) stand opposite readers for ethnic Greek children in Albania living under the Enver Hoxha regime. A reconstruction of a mid-20th century classroom in one of the halls with wooden desks shows just how much things have changed.