Very little has changed in the Greek school sit-ins, an annual ritual, except that today they are held against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. This change is also reflected in the demands of the protesting students: Some of the demands presented to the Ministry of Education this year were: responsible information from the State and the National Public Health Organization (EODY) on vaccination; free and regular rapid tests – and not just self-tests – in schools for all pupils without discrimination; small classes, using more appropriate classrooms.
It’s hard not to be surprised by the demands of the demonstrators. It is as if daily reports on the spread of the pandemic and the conditions it places on the economy, society and the education system are not part of our daily reality. On the other hand, sit-ins have always been somewhat cut off from reality.
It is estimated that more than 130 sit-ins are currently taking place in schools across the country this year.
The problem is not the boredom and, therefore, the indifference carried by the recurring ritual. Nor are it the often misspelled slogans used by students that are inevitably commented on. It’s not even the waste of class hours either. Last year, in fact, Education Minister Niki Kerameus said that in schools affected by the sit-ins, classes would take place during school holidays, on Saturdays and instead of field trips to make up for lost time. Ultimately, plans were turned upside down by the pandemic and distance learning.
None of these problems are indeed fundamental to the Greek education system. The same goes for the unbearably predictable casting which is repeated every year, with the same actors – students, teachers, parents, officials from the Ministry of Education – delivering the same lines.
What really shines from year to year is the lack of desire for knowledge, the disconnect from the discipline that is needed to complete the education process. Distant classes may have intensified students’ distance from school. But the trend was already there.
Sit-ins accentuate inequalities and social divisions between private and public education; the latter is losing ground even though it constitutes an essential base for the future of the country.
Dismantling the school routine is not free. Predictable repetition doesn’t make sit-ins boring and meaningless. They risk being the only manifestation of “normalcy” in a school year that promises to be already hectic and disconcerting.