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Greeks Begin School Year with 27,000-Teacher Deficit and No Money to Hire More

As Greeks prepare for the beginning of the school year in September, there are serious concerns among Ministry of Education officials that as many as 27,000 teacher and university professor positions will remain unfilled. Officials are scrambling to recruit substitute teachers with fewer certifications to fill classrooms.

 Greek newspaper Ta Nea cites the Teachers’ Federation of Greece as warning of the 27,000 open positions. “27,000 missing teachers, and the recruitment that can be done through NSRF programs will not exceed 12,000,” explained Teachers’ Federation of Greece general secretary Triantafyllos Oikonomou. The National Strategic Reference Framework  (NSRF) is a European Union program meant to help with these shortages, but it can only provide substitute teachers, and the Greek government and school agencies are struggling to recruit new, young, permanently employed teachers. “There are a large number of teachers that will not work this year… thousands of schools will open in September in this condition,” Oikonomou warned.

Greek newspaper Kathimerini places the number of missing teachers closer to 25,000, but notes the situation is still dire. The country’s national education ministry has been unable to hire new full-time teachers in the past few months because of its debts to the European Union and its crippling national debt crisis; the number of empty teacher positions reached 20,000 in July, with little evidence the Greek government will be able to afford bridging the gap.

Education is one of many public issues on the minds of Greek legislators as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calls for another emergency session of Parliament to approve a new draft of the bailout the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are planning to give his country. Legislators are scheduled to vote Thursday on the new law, which would result in Greece receiving 85 billion euros in bailout money in exchange for implementing a set of austerity measures that would guarantee Greece reach 2016 with a budget surplus, not counting debt payments on this new sum in particular.

“The crucial nature of the situation requires the immediate convening of parliament to proceed with the deal’s approval and allow the disbursement of the first installment,” Tsipras said. He is not expected to have the support of his own party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), which has protested to austerity measures proposed in the aftermath of a July 5 referendum in which Greeks rejected a series of less strict austerity measures, only to have Tsipras propose a more severe policy. Leading Syriza rebel Costas Lapavitsas described the new deal as a “noose around the neck of the Greek people,” demanding that “leftwing governments should take leftwing actions.”

The Guardian lists some of the specific measures Tsipras is backing:

Besides the sale of some state property and further cuts to pensions, military spending and tax credits for vulnerable people, these include energy market deregulation, changes to tonnage tax for shipping firms, price cuts in generic drugs, a review of the social welfare system, phasing out early retirement, and market reforms proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Tsipras said Wednesday he is “optimistic” the measures will be passed, despite opposition from his own party.

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