Fewer pupils

What does it matter if we have more school buildings, more classes and more teachers if the pupils are becoming fewer by the year? According to a National Statistics Service study released yesterday, the number of Greek pupils has declined by 160,000 over the past 10 years. The biggest drop, 3.2 percent, is recorded among high school and senior high school students. The number of pupils in primary education rose by a slight 0.9 percent, mainly due to the influx of foreign students. As a consequence, amid the hype for the Summer Olympic Games, 353 schools had to close down this year (63 primary schools, 190 high schools and 100 senior high schools). Yet the news did not make the headlines – which was to be expected, as even the responsible officials have treated Greece’s demographic problem as a natural phenomenon for years. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of surveys have been published that underscore the severity of the problem and highlight the causes of Greece’s low birthrate, recommending various types of remedial action. The State’s reaction however has been superficial. But the problem can be solved neither with the meager benefits and incentives for the families who have many children, nor with the creation of more nursery schools supposedly aimed at relieving the working mother. The problem is rather directly related to (youth) unemployment, labor insecurity, and low wages. Because of its complexity, the demographic problem becomes a natural – that is, inevitable – phenomenon. And Greece’s political leaders display their trademark reaction in the face of any calamity, which is that there are «not enough anti-flood projects,» «not enough snowplows,» «no perfect earthquake-resistant building regulations.» The response is always that we have to learn to live with the problem.