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Teachers blame George Babiniotis on conflict of interests

02 April 2012 / 20:04:28  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

Just two weeks after taking up office as Minister of Education, the former rector of the University of Athens, Professor George Babiniotis, has already managed to open several fronts with his actions. First, he was practically the first one to break the law on higher education supported by three parliamentary forces, ruling that universities will be eligible to state funding without applying the changes in it. The majority of Greek society criticized his action, which was a step back in implementing the reforms needed by Greek universities.

The second move by Minister Babiniotis caused a 24-hour strike of private school teachers. Today, they gathered outside the office of the federation of private schools teachers in Greece to protest against the amendment of the law, which the Minister submitted for vote by parliament late in the afternoon last Friday.

"This amendment exempts the conditions for dismissal of private schools teachers. Until today, our dismissed colleagues had the right to turn to regional professional councils on education to revise the dismissal decisions and to find out whether it is a case of abuse," said the vice chairman of the federation Costas Papandonopoulos.

With the amendment submitted to parliament, the Minister revokes that power of the councils. "The amendment states that layoffs will be made only by the heads of education departments. I.e. an administrative authority will still make inspections, but it will be composed of only one member instead of the five-member board, as until today. "

According to teachers in private schools, the issue would be less controversial if George Babiniotis being a Minister is not the owner of the "Arsakeio" chain of private schools.

"He is the chairman of the company "Filekpaideftiki Etaireia," which is the owner of these schools. It is abundantly clear that Mr. Babiniotis has decided to make a gift to himself being a minister for a short time. It is a gift to the other 200 owners of private schools, the trade union of which has been requiring for years the full cancellation of the control on teachers’ dismissals. At the same time, the constitutional rights of some 10,000 teachers in private schools throughout the country are violated."

The federation argued that owners of private schools have been requiring for years that the state control in private education be minimized, although the constitution stipulates the opposite. "It indicates that education is the responsibility of the state. It may be provided by private schools only if the authorities have granted such an option. The state never loses its right to supervise the process of education."

At the same time, the crisis has affected private schools as well. The latest available data of the Ministry of Education is for last year, according to which the number of students in private schools decreased by around 3%. "But if we take into account that during the period of liberalized tuition fees from 2004 to 2010 they increased even by as much as 50% in some cases, while teachers' salaries increased by only 12%, it is clear what the profit was in favour of private schools." The fees in the schools owned by Minister George Babiniotis jumped by up to 43%.

"Arsakeio" is the name of a chain of private schools, run by the non-profit organization "Filekpeaideftiki Etaireia" (Community of Friends of Education). It consists of six schools that are located in the expensive Athenian suburbs of Psychico and Ekali, in Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina and more recently in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Two new schools are expected to be built in Komotini in northern Greece and in Cyprus.

It is one of the oldest and most elite schools in the country. The organization was founded in 1836 to establish a girls' school that the daughters of all wealthy Greek families at that time graduated from. At the end of 1920, "Arsakio" had to be moved from the centre of Athens because of the noise of the city, which disturbed the training process. The school was moved to the suburb of Paleo Psychico, and in the complex of buildings between Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets are housed the State Council, the book market, banks, shops and company offices.


Tags: PoliticsSocietyStrikePrivate schoolsAmendment of lawDismissalsGeorge BabiniotisArsakio
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