NEWS

Lack of trust in teachers a major issue

The proposals that arise from this dialogue with children will form the content of a memorandum to the Education Ministry, Moschos explained. «We are trying to find ways of getting the voice of children heard by adults. As we saw from the evaluation forms they filled out, the children want to help and continue contributing to the program. In the future we aim to include children from more difficult settings – orphanages, foundations, reformatories and schools for children with special needs. We also want to include children with physical disabilities. Did you know that in the provinces children with physical disabilities don’t go to school because they feel embarrassed? But when a child with a physical disability attended the discussion for representative school groups at the Ombudsman’s office, all the other children were pleased. Some because they accepted the child, others because they could express tenderness and caring.» Children want their teachers to act as intermediaries in resolving conflicts and as a link to the real mission of school. «We would like our teachers to help us so we can get on better together and get closer to the meaning of school,» said one pupil, but that expectation is far from being met. Many children complain that they cannot trust their teachers. Unfortunately pupils’ organizations are held in low esteem by both pupils and teachers. Instead of participating in everyday school life and making decisions about matters involving the expression of opinions, school councils spend their time deciding about excursions, parties and sit-ins. Respect for their personality is another high-priority issue for students. Some teachers, they say, insult and harass them. «They put us down. They insult us instead of getting us to think about the mistake we’ve made,» was one complaint. Others complained about teachers flirting with pupils and wonder if there are sufficient disciplinary measures or any kind of control over such teachers. Pupils want their grades based on the effort that each one has made rather than their performance. «Why should pupils stay back a class? As long as education is compulsory, maybe all pupils should be promoted,» said Moschos. «We are preparing a report on that, concerning cases of children with restricted mental ability or serious family problems. Those children cannot do well in exams and there is no special service to evaluate their problems so they can be exempted from exams as are children with dyslexia or who have received a diagnosis from a Diagnosis, Evaluation and Support Center.» Tuition colleges are another big issue for pupils, who link them with the devaluation of school. «How can we respect school when we all know we have to go to tuition college so we can cover all the syllabus? Can’t the school cover the syllabus?» they ask. Many pupils add that when they don’t understand something in class, their teachers say: «You attend tuition college. Why are you asking questions now?» The problem is very serious in senior high schools, Moschos explained, adding: «One of the places where I encountered the greatest scorn for school, and where all the pupils had the attitude ‘What can school teach us? We’ve got tuition college in the evening. We come to school to have fun,’ was the school of Amarythos in Evia, where a foreign pupil was raped.» The Children’s Ombudsman staff visited the school after the incident and again three months later. They noted that parents, teachers and pupils had all tacitly agreed that senior high school did little to prepare children for tertiary education. The teachers were widely rumored to teach at tuition colleges in the evenings. «When the response to our observation that the school has no laboratories is ‘True, we haven’t. But what can you do? Labs take three hours’ preparation. Where can I find that kind of time?’ you assume that such schools generate more,» said Moschos. «That’s why I say tuition colleges are a huge problem. They make children work day and night, are a financial burden on families, and devalue the institution of school.»