Emily and Phoebe

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bags and books

One of the first things we did when we got back to Athens was to buy the girls new bags for school. Phoebe needed a slightly bigger one, as she will have more lessons now she is in fourth grade, while Emily wanted a slightly smaller one because at gymnasio she will have fewer (though I'm assuming longer) lessons each day.

Now this is what is known as being prepared. School begins on September 12th, and so children up and down the country have been equipping themselves with bags, pencil cases, pens, pencils and goodness knows what else. However, not everyone, it seems, is quite so organised.

There was upheaval [...] Monday at the primary and secondary education level as it emerged that most state schools have yet to receive the necessary text books for the next academic year, which begins next week.

The Greek Publishing Organization of Educational Books, known by its acronym OEDB, issued a statement Monday, pledging that 70 percent of the books will have been delivered by the second half of October. In the meantime, teachers and pupils will have to make do with photocopied sections of the relevant textbooks and DVDs containing course material. According to some estimates, each school will have to produce around 7,000 photocopied pages per day to meet course demands.

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou Monday apologized for the “inconvenience,” blaming a bureaucratic holdup, and said that all possible action was being taken to get the books to schools as quickly as possible.

(From kathimerini's online English edition.)

Why are there no books? A "bureaucratic holdup" according to the minister. Well, perhaps. We've had those often enough in the past, after all: some teachers don't arrive in their posts until mid-October, and we're all used to that; books are often a bit late arriving (though by a week or two, not nearly two months, and my recollection last year is that all the books were ready from day one). While it's true that there has been some kind of reoganisation of local education offices going on, which might account for a few glitches in the actual distribution of books, a delay of this magnitude obviously means that they haven't even been printed yet.

I will try and find out what the story is behind this. For the time being, all I want to comment on is the fantastical idea that schools will be able to provide photocopies of the necessary pages. Now even assuming that each school has got a roomful of state-of-the-art photocopiers (foreign readers may not realise what an utterly ridiculous assumption this is, but let's just say they do, for the sake of argument), how will schools that lacked the funds even to pay for heating oil last year even be able to afford the paper and toner for all these photocopies?


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