Friday, 19 December 2008


Here's a view of how a typical school sit-in is staged.

The children (in this case, the largest inner-city junior high school of the area, with students aged 13-15) lock up the school gates with chains and a padlock (which they've bought themselves; they are always gleaming their newness). They hang around the school gates, allowing students in, but keeping teachers out, even in the evening. When teachers are allowed in, it is for a purpose, like for instance, to pick up a document. The teachers hang around in the area, watching from the gates. Most often, they act as if there is nothing unusual about the situation, with laidback smiles on their faces. When the students eventually 'agree' to open up the school for lessons (hey, it's almost time for the school Christmas party, and who wants to be at school over the two-week holiday period?!), it is usually because they got bored. Despite not having lessons, children are expected to 'catch up' on whatever they weren't 'taught', as stipulated in the free Ministry of Education school textbooks that every Greek student receives at the beginning of each school year.

junior high school hania chania junior high school hania chania
(inner-city junior high school inHania; note the teacher who has just been 'allowed' to depart from the school, and the crowd of students guarding the main school entrance)
junior high school hania chania junior high school hania chania

Hania is a small picturesque town with mild winter weather. This newly renovated school is situated right next to the Agora, the central market, in a very historic area (you can see the minaret used to call out Moslem praying times during the Ottoman occupation of Hania - pre-1890 - in the background). The school does not reflect the miserable conditions found in most Greek schools as seen in larger centres, nor the misgivings of the Greek education system.

agora next to junior high school hania chania

And now, the $64 million question: what are the students staging sit-ins for? Sit-ins are a standard winter feature of Greek schools. There is never a reason; it's simply become a tradition. This year's started off with the shooting of Alexis, as if that was a good reason.


  1. I didn't realize sit-ins were not something unusual in your schools. nor that conditions in schools are miserable.
    Maria, so good that you tell it like it is.
    Your video adds a lively dimension.
    Yesterday our soldiers, 7,000 of them, did a practice exercise in the desert of riot control, including a scenario of civil unrest. Oi!

  2. Hi Med. Kiwi

    It is extreme, i agree and unfortunately since 1991 (that at least i remember the first take-overs in my lifetime :-D ) schools have remained closed increasingly longer. Sometimes without sound justification.

    The educational system (or other systems as well) might not be ideal but somehow it needs to be supported. Demolishing the little that is left of it and starting over is a step backwards....or at least this is my view (and this view is not aligned with the interests of the current or any government...schools stand for everyone's children)

  3. It sounds very peculiar to me. Sit-ins as a tradition? No educational system is perfect or good enough (for example ours), but if that is the cause it ought to be the parents who stage the sit-ins. Somehow then, from what you have written, that does not seem to be the cause.

  4. Sit-ins a tradition coming from the past...

  5. "allowing students in, but keeping teachers out..."
    I'm curious, what exactly are these students doing with themselves once they are inside the school's gates?

  6. Only by readingblogs do we get to the heart and the truth of the matter. This was a real eye opener for me.