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A Day in an Occupied School in Thessaloniki

As I was heading to the 7th Gymnasio-Lykeio of Thessaloniki, one of the occupied schools of the city, I was under the impression that that I was going to meet some students who didn’t know exactly what they were fighting for, who were not so bright or were blinded by what they see on TV or hear from politicians.
My first impression was, fortunately, wrong because the majority of them knew well what their cause was and why they closed the iron door of their school and kept out teachers.
As Alexis, 17, told me: ” We fight for what  is best for us and not to show off or because it is something that other schools do, so let’s do it. The occupation of the school is focused on our personal problems”.
Students from the school, as in many others of Thessaloniki, protest for better facilities, especially to the athletic department where they said the equipment is unsafe. They claimed that there is danger for the children who use it and some were injured but no one did anything about it. In one instance, they said, a student was injured by an iron bar to the neck and six years later the defective equipment still hasn’t been fixed.
They said that another problem is that they are forced to buy on their own the books for foreign languages classes, including English, because the ministry will not pay for them, making it difficult for students who can’t afford the books, although some times parents groups or even teachers step in to help where the government won’t.
When someone asks then about the widespread belief that some such actions are organized by outside agitators, they denied it. ”They make a major mistake,” Alexis said about that allegations. “In our school, we voted democratically through our student council and the result was in favor of the occupation.” Giannis, 16, added: ”Do you mean political parties? No. There is no such a case”.
In the wider area of Thessaloniki some 30 schools are under occupation by students, an annual event across Greece, usually at this time of the year, leaving the classrooms idle and teachers locked out, and lost days are often not made up. The problem is bigger when two schools share the same building and only the one is in favor of such an action because none of them can function.

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