In Greece, educating two children often costs the entire income of one parent

Sofia Dede has two children, Anna, 17, in her final year of senior high and 13-year-old Philippos, in his second year of junior high. Both attend extracurricular private schools to prepare for entry into a higher education institute. Anna is at cramming college (-320 a month) and also has private lessons. Philippos is studying English and German at a language institute (-260 a month) and has an hour a week of free coaching at school in composition. He also learns guitar for free at the municipal conservatory and plays football (-30 a month). The total – over -1,100 a month. This year is a difficult one, perhaps the most difficult so far, even though Sofia and her husband are in a «privileged» category. «We are both civil servants and own our own home, a weekend house and a car. Still, we took out a loan this year because expenditure was way over what we expected,» says Dede, a primary school teacher. She hopes her daughter will get into a teachers’ college herself, to be sure of a job. Yet Dede often wonders if it is worth so much money, effort and worry. Anna began the school year with private lessons in all her exam subjects. «We had four teachers coming home, meaning over -1,000 a month, and those were not high prices. In practice, however, they didn’t do much good, perhaps they didn’t suit Anna. So I thought a combination of cramming college and private lessons was best. I hope I did right,» Dede says. She believes that parents make mistakes in their anxiousness to get their children into university. «The children think it self-evident that they will have help,» the mother says. «They don’t try to get their questions answered in school, because they know they have the cramming college. Then there are the parents’ ambitions. They don’t want their children to fail, or to realize that at some point they will have to take responsibility. A child goes to school and tells the teacher he has left his book at home. Usually there is an overprotective mother at home who, when her child is 17 or 18, will realize that it is she, more than her son or daughter, who wants a pass in the exams.» Anna has given up foreign languages this year to concentrate on her schoolwork but will continue later. She first went to cramming college in the first year of junior high, for mathematics. Philippos has been studying music for eight years. «I believe it’s important for a child to get pleasure from extracurricular activities,» Dede says. «That’s where the money and the time is well spent. However, sometimes they expend too much energy on them. Their minds go in too many directions and they wind up not learning anything well. I keep telling them to have dreams, to turn off the television, to read a book, to imagine their lives and to fight for them.» This article appeared in the January 28 edition of K, Kathimerini’s color supplement.