Athens school principal on trial for teaching other languages
The case of the ex - grade school principle standing trial today in Athens for allowing the teaching of some lessons in languages other than Greek has exposed the struggle that Greece is facing over its handling of immigration. Although the official line taken by recent governments has been one of tolerance and respect the trial of Stella Protonotariou,has revealed that in reality such high ideals have yet to be implemented in many areas of public life.
Protonotariou, who until last year was principle at the 132nd grade school, Athens is being tried today for allowing the use of school classrooms for the teaching of lessons outside class hours. Even though 75% of the student body do not speak Greek as their first language the move to teach extra lessons in Arabic and Albanian from 2005 - 2007 resulted in the principle’s removal from her post last year and criminal charges brought at the behest of the local educational authority. Other programs axed following the change of principle included free Greek lessons for parents and the posting of school announcements in English and Albanian.
All extra lessons had been taught by teachers volunteering their time and had been agreed upon by the teacher parent council. Also according to the national Greek daily, Nea the introduction of the program had quickly curbed cases of racism and xenophobia in the school which is located in one capital's most deprived areas.
With Greece facing recession there has been a rise in racist attacks by far right groups across the country, especially aimed at recent immigrants from Asia and Africa. Last week ultra - nationalists and left wing groups clashed in the Athens neighbourhood of Agios Panteleimonas following a decision to lock a local play area in order to stop the children of immigrants using it.
Also the recent poor showing by the ruling New Democracy party during the European elections has prompted a sharp turn to the right with new measures aimed at clamping down on illegal immigrants in the centre of Athens and the proposal to set up internment camps across Greece to deal with those arrested. In announcing such measures prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis hopes to stop the leakage of votes to the far right LAOS party which already has 10 MPs in the national parliament and captured as much as 10% of the vote in some electoral districts.