NEWS

Diploma scam exposed

Thousands of people working as nurses, physiotherapists, dental technicians and in other vocations may have been employed on the basis of diplomas awarded despite the fact they did not attend any classes, it emerged yesterday. An investigation by the regional education authorities in Epirus has concluded that two private vocational schools in Arta have, for the last seven years, been selling diplomas to some students. Sources told Kathimerini that some 2,000 such diplomas were issued for between 5,000 and 15,000 euros each. Inspectors found that, in most cases, students did not attend any classes at all. The two schools, Evropi and Tomi, are alleged to have awarded a high proportion of students with diplomas carrying high grades, which gave them a head start when applying for jobs in the public sector. The Federation of Private School Teachers of Greece (OIELE) has claimed that the Evropi school awarded some 1,000 diplomas in three years. During this period, it issued 22 percent of all the top grades given by vocational schools in the whole of Greece. Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said that the government was determined to root out any schools that were cheating by issuing undeserved diplomas. «We will not tolerate any hint of corruption or any situation that offends our values and principles and damages the impeccable environment of the education system,» he said. The report compiled by the inspectors, which covered the period 1999-2006, indicated that a number of parties were responsible for the scam, including the owners of the vocational schools, teachers and exam boards. Students who obtained the fake diplomas now face the possibility of being fired from their jobs. Sources said that the Education Ministry is likely to issue a decision canceling the diplomas, though a lengthy appeals process is almost certain. A similar scam was uncovered last year when inspectors found that vocational schools in Larissa, Trikala, Kavala, Arta and Athens had issued some 5,000 diplomas with perfect marks, which their holders then used to get jobs at state hospitals and kindergartens.