Provincialism must not stall education

Owners of provincial apartments and cafes reacted badly to the number of students who will be admitted this year to technical colleges (TEI) in their towns. In their reactions, which have snowballed into protests supported by the area’s municipal leaders, we can clearly see the level of distortion in our society and its political representation. Alliances composed of small vested interests want to sacrifice education to small-time, dead-end business activity that treats students like tourists, catering to their housing and especially their leisure needs. These provincial business owners and their political supporters have turned to the post-secondary education sector to satisfy their economic needs, instead of realizing that the sector is there to educate, not line the pockets of provincial leaders. Education is being dragged into a debate that has nothing to do with improving it. Instead, the debate is being spliced by minor issues such as the survival of cafes or rental houses in a few provincial towns. We expected these reactions. But we have been surprised that the demands have also been taken up by the local municipalities. The mayors of 42 towns which house TEIs unanimously decided to stage protests over the whole affair. Unfortunately, such alliances have undermined changes that were crucial for Greece in the past. We can’t afford that anymore. It is reasonable for minor interest groups to rise up in protest when they believe they are being threatened. It is not desirable, however, for these interests to be transformed into a political force against every movement for reform in the country. The government should offer firm resistance to such attempts. The choice between cafe sales and education improvement is not a choice at all. Education improvement, which will benefit all Greeks, should always trump provincial interests.

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