Thursday 29 September 2011


It's a little after 10 o'clock but these secondary school children will be having no lessons today. They are striking, not for better pay and conditions, not to show their solidarity against the austerity measures imposed on their country, they are striking because they have no books for their classes.

School books, from primary school to senior high school are usually printed over the summer months ready for the beginning of school in September but this year a breakdown in the payments to the various tenders involved meant crucial delays in the supply of paper to the printers. Many school children have not had any lessons in the subjects that still have no books while other teachers are trying to fill the gaps with photocopies.

One of the protesting schoolgirls told me that there were a number of reasons for striking, “We have no books, our classrooms are overcrowded and they haven't brought any heating oil.”

One mother of a 13-year-old who attends the same school said that the parents had been told that there would be no heating oil delivered to the school this year because there was no money. Temperatures in this village in the mountains 15km from the centre of Thessaloniki in northern Greece fall to minus in the winter. At least a week of school is lost, most years, due to snow.

The headmaster of the 3rd high school of Hortiati declined to comment but one teacher did tell me that he felt the students did have a good point on a number of their issues.

The proprietor of the local book shop who supplies the parents with the schoolbooks said that the books were usually delivered last minute but this year was worst than ever. However on the subject of the children's action she was a little more cynical, “They are just out to miss some school.” She said adding, “This is what they learn, raise a banner, shout, strike and you'll get noticed.” she added that if they really wanted to do something constructive they could organise, “The ministers are not going to take notice of a bunch of schoolkids who don't want to go to school.”

This years list of new activities
The schools are each allocated €500 initial expenses to cover office supplies, photocopies, maintenance and heating fuel. The delay in books has meant that a large portion of that has gone on photocopies and none is left to cover heating oil which is set for a huge price hike due to the removal of any tax subsidies, bringing it to the same price as road diesel.

Now for the punchline... this is not the first year that this has happened and it's not ECB's austerity measures that are at its root. This is the mismanagement that Germany is voting on whether to entrust with another bailout loan.

BREAKING NEWS: Germany voted to give more.

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