Business premises targeted during student march

Protesters smashed three storefronts in central Athens yesterday during a rally by secondary school and university students protesting government plans to reform the public education system and privatize universities. There were no reports of arrests or injuries. A group of youths among some 2,000 peaceful protesters smashed the front windows of two banks and the front of a store selling cellular phones. Secondary school students have been staging sit-ins at several hundred schools around Greece demanding the government increase spending in the sector to 5 percent of gross domestic product. Currently education expenditure amounts to 3.1 percent of GDP. The number of secondary schools that have been shut down in Athens due to student sit-in protests increased this week but in certain regions of the country numbers declined, according to the Education Ministry. The total number of schools that have been shut down nationwide is between 400 and 450. In Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said opposition parties needed to play a more constructive role and refrain from backing student protests. «Do we want our schools to be open or closed?» he said. «It’s not progressive or democratic to see school entrances chained up – it’s an action opposed to learning and opposed to progress.» The conservative government has accused left-wing parties of manipulating the student protests for political gain. University students are protesting a reform to tighten the academic and fiscal management of public universities as well as government plans to recognize private university degrees. Only degrees issued by Greek public universities are accepted for employment purposes in the public sector, while graduates of private institutes must submit their degrees for state approval and are often asked to take additional exams. The Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) said it would hold a general strike on November 26, continuing the opposition to the government’s education policies that began last year.