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Teachers do not want mergers of schools and announced 48-hour strike

11 February 2011 / 16:02:30  GRReporter
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Primary and secondary school teachers protest mainly against the mergers and the low budget allocated to education. They announced a 48-hour strike on February 22 and 23 and yesterday some pf them joined the strike of civil servants unions that lasted several hours.

The main requests of the teachers are generally associated with the requests of all employees in the public sector. They do not want their wages to be cut and want their 2010 salary losses to be paid, education costs to reach 5% of GDP, and the initial salary of newly appointed teachers to be 1400 euros. One of the main demands of the branch is not to merge schools according to economic criteria, to recruit new teachers and to introduce educational introductory lessons before the start of classes as well as programs for continuous training of teachers.

Parents and teachers in Thessaloniki also protested against the merger which will be carried out without taking into account the needs of people in different regions of the country. They say this will reduce the quality of education because there will be more students in the classrooms and children will find it difficult to get to school. According to the departments of education in Thessaloniki, 26 schools can be either closed, or merged. The final proposals will be ready in late February and sent to the competent officials in the Ministry of Education.

Nikitas is 30 years old and has been a teacher in informatics since 2005. He has changed 15 schools throughout Greece starting from the island of Ikaria, through Crete, Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki. Currently, he is teaching at the high school in Simandra with a total of 155 children. In Greece, primary school education system is divided into secondary school and lyceum. Nikitas says that the school he teaches at is a high school and has five classes with 55 children with lyceum degree of education. Under the new law, one hundred children from the school will have to move to another school and merge with the students there. So, Nikitas will look for work again then. Regarding the salaries, he says that if you fight back you may keep your salary the same as it was the previous day, but if you don’t fight back they will take it. He himself prefers to travel every day from Thessaloniki to the village where he works, 40 km away from Piraeus, rather than to rent a house or room there because he is already tired to move to different houses every six months or a year.

I spoke            in brief with George Galanis from the Union of Teachers in Piraeus, who participated in the protest organized by ADEDY, about the strike of teachers and their demands.

What are the teachers’ demands and why will you go on strike on February 22 and 23?

The most serious problem of education this year is that it is under the pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the Troika. This year, funding for education is lower than before. When the current Minister of Education, Anna Diamandopoulou was responsible for education in PASOK while the party was in opposition, she pledged that money for education would reach 5% of GDP. Instead, this year we got to the bottom and subsidies fell below 3%. In this connection, they decided to merge or close schools to save money. To close schools means that children who have studied there will be spread to other schools. As for the merger, there are many schools that share a common yard for example. These schools will be merged. This will save staff by bringing together classes. The problem here is not that jobs for teachers will be reduced. The point is that there will be at least 30 students in the high school classes and at least 25 students in elementary school classes. Currently, most classes are of about twenty children or a little more. We have constant meetings with the parents who are worried. This is the most important issue for us by February 23. But the worst is that resources from education will be cut. It is not something new - the same happens in healthcare and in other fields of the state sector.

What is your opinion about the new program of the Ministry to include English language and theatre in the first graders curriculum? How is the program being implemented?

The program is running since September last year and is being piloted in 800 schools. This is a big balloon. I myself work at such a school. The idea was the children to leave the school but to learn something. But it is not so because they spend less time at school. At these schools, children start learning English language and informatics in the first grade but no one can prove that they have to learn a foreign language before they have learned to write in their native language. Kids still can not write in Greek and they want them to learn English. They have classes in informatics without any curriculum. Besides, at this age children have a close relationship with the teacher, and now first graders have six teachers. They meet different teachers the whole day – they have a teacher in general subjects but they have different teachers in physical education, English language, informatics, theatre, music, painting ... The worse is that they took a high school teacher to teach the small pupils without following a specific program. This new educational program in primary schools is funded by the European Union and it will operate until there are grants, but what about when the funding stops?

Tags: NewsSocietySchoolsTeachersStrikeMergerCurriculumMinistry of Education
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