GREECE: Revolting students attack education cuts

University students across Greece are supporting striking school pupils who have occupied more than 500 schools. Thousands of others are refusing to enter their classrooms.

While waiting in the wings as their younger counterparts acted, university students were feverishly preparing to enter the fray themselves on Saturday. Traditionally on 17 November, the anniversary of the fall of the Greek military junta in which students and academics played a key role more than 30 years ago, students mount their greatest challenges to the government.

They were actively preparing last week to take part in a huge demonstration in the middle of Athens to put even greater pressure on the government to raise education funding and scrap impending legislation.

But government claims that the student mobilisation, which has brought the country’s schools to a standstill and parents close to despair for the future of their children, has been politically instigated.

Anxious to contain escalation of the unrest, Education Secretary E Stylianidis said that “those who wish to challenge the government should not choose the sensitive area of education”.

A spokesman for the government declared that no-one had the right to prevent others from their “democratic right to attend school”.

Secondary school pupils have mounted the first challenge to the government’s educational policy. They claim that two months after the start of the school year they are still without teachers, schoolbooks have not been delivered and a large number of school buildings and classrooms are unfit for teaching.

They are demanding more money for education and the abolition of the legislation voted by parliament in the spring. In effect, they are now fighting for their own future.

This year the students’ challenge is expected to be fierce in view of the government’s intention to retain the current legislation. Adding to the students’ fury is forthcoming recognition of private tertiary education colleges, which students in the state universities unequivocally oppose.

The Federation of Parents has decided to initiate a series of meetings with the chairman of the Greek parliament, representatives of political parties, ministers and other interested groups in the hope of resolving the situation and re-opening schools.