Written by Pantelis Boukalas
For two years now, the pandemic has severely shaken the educational system – in Greece and many other countries too. The differences between countries are not always comparable, as the degree of preparation and the financial capabilities of each country differ. There are no relevant evaluation tables – however, seriously, if they did, our country could not claim an impressive position.
We tend to say that children forget and move on, but in many cases this is just a wish
That’s because classes with 20 or even 25 students, schools housed in containers (and not necessarily in earthquake-stricken areas), as well as the perpetual gaps in teaching staff – which are covered, to the degree that they are, by substitute teachers – would serve as obstacles.
Instead of hiring new full-time staff, we have fixed-term contracts. Contrary to what is happening in the rest of the European Union, the pledge to spend 5% of gross domestic product on education remains a pipe dream in Greece, as distant as it was decades ago, when we first heard it.
We tend to say that children forget and move on, but in many cases this is just a wish. Even elementary school students will find it very difficult to digest and assimilate the changes in the school experience: Instead of the expected joy, which results almost equally from acquiring knowledge and socializing with peers, there is fear, masks, safety distances, distant learning, and many new restrictions that poison their young souls.
Experts fear that the reopening of schools will infect 30,000 to 50,000 children, as their age category, which seemed invulnerable, is powerless in the face of the Delta variant. But we should also be afraid of the deterioration of school pupils’ and university students’ mental health. Unfortunately, the “pandemic generation” will pay a heavy price, both now and in the long run, and we must not overlook the fact that it is also the “climate crisis generation.”
Vaccinations will contribute decisively, if of course their rate increases dramatically, which has so far been disappointing: just 13% in children aged 12-14, 25% in adolescents aged 15-17.
The distrust of many parents, the adolescent confidence in the omnipotence of youth, the misinformation, the sense that schools will be a sort of “experimental laboratory,” created by the education minister’s announcement that they will only close if the number of infections exceeds 50% plus one, lead us to believe that the blessings offered at the start of the new school year will not be enough to secure a good year.