segunda-feira, março 26, 2007

A report on the Greek Students Movement

The University is an important factor in the regulation of youth mobility in Greece, as elsewhere. Young people that dream of a good life, or a career, study hard during High School, in order to get into University. From there, they wish for a degree, and a job.

During the last decade, things are going through a gradual change. The rise of unemployment has struck a heavy blow on the young, as they have seen their dream vanishing into a black cloud of uncertainty.

Public University education in Greece is on heavy decline during the last decade. Less and less money is spent for building and equipment. University teachers are facing wage cut backs, and temps are hired, creating big problems in many schools. At the same time, the University and its professors are becoming more and more attached to the corporate and the market, either because it serves them well, either because the University needs resources in order to survive, such that only the rich companies are willing to provide, for a price.

So the market University is a reality in Greece, and so is the precarity of the students’ lives and future. In this situation, a wave of neoliberal reforms came to change the University even further towards the direction of the market. After all, the University is one of the last refuges for the youth, a place to discuss, spend free time creatively, and study, away from the tense rhythms of High School or the labor market.

At the end of May 2006, the Education Minister announced the coming of a new law for the Universities. The law included many minor and major changes. Most of them are quite close to the Bologna Convention, but also some Greek originalities. Measures and deadlines would be introduced to kick students that failed exams out of University. The Universities had to adopt to a way of evaluation dictated by the Government, make progress and development plans, according to the mandates of the corporate, since state funds are steadily decreasing. New school rules would be introduced, and in general, things were getting tougher on students and schools. Free books for students were to be lessened, etc. On the contrary, no promise of funding or agreeing to any other demand of the students and professors was given. Furthermore, it would be made easier for Police to enter the University campus, a taboo in Greece since the fall of the coup in 1974, after the Polytechnics revolt.

This announced Reform, in combination with the tough situation for students, set forth a chained explosion of University occupations all around the country, such that was not encountered for decades. In a couple of weeks, almost all schools were occupied by the students. Thousands of students took action for the first time. The schools were full of life, events were organized, and the demonstrations were huge, counting to dozens of thousands all over the country.

It was a really grassroots movement, since many of these people had never dealt with politics before in their live, and yet they did everything they could to give life to school occupations and demos. Of course many student groups of all kinds (left, leftist, social democrats, autonomous and anarchist) were involved. But they couldn’t manipulate it. For example, the Stalinist student party, that is controlled by the Greek Communist Party which is pretty big in Greece was left out because they didn’t support the occupations.

The energy was amazing. At first, the Government spoke about manipulated minorities, but the numbers were so big that they couldn’t deny there is a problem.

After a couple of weeks of occupations, at the Athens demo of the 8th of June 2006, Police hit the students with heavy repressions. Many were injured and a few arrested. The excuse was the heavy rioting that usually takes place during these demos, coming from small or bigger groups of people. The provocation was answered with even bigger demos from the students, and more occupations. Soon, almost no Department was open. The Government retreated, promising that they wouldn’t pass the law during Summer.

The things became calm for a couple of months in the Universities. In September, exams took place normally, and the students failed to support the heavy strikes of Primary School teachers demanding for better wages and more money for schools, that lasted for two months. The strike ended in a failure.

The scenery changed again in January, when the reform of the Constitution procedure started. The right Government, with the consent of the social democrat opposition, agreed on the need for reforms on educations, and promised to change the article number 16 of the Constitution, that forbids the creation of Universities by private entrepreneurs. Only the State is free to found a University.

Then, only in a few days, the students revolted again. It was surprising how fast and massive the new wave of occupations was. Almost 350 schools were occupied (on June it was 420, in a total of about 450 schools in Greece). Big demos were held. They were not as alive as in June, but they were equally big and even more politicized. The students were more experienced now. They discussed more and found better ways of organizing. Also, during the last months, many new grass root groups were created and new people joined in. They were more prepared this time. They asked for better funding and more independence for Universities.

Then, something unbelievable happened. The main social democrat opposition party, withdrew from the Constitution reform procedure. They found some silly excuse and said that they would no longer take part in the whole process, that included also other kinds of reforms. (Their support is necessary for a Constitutional reform). The Student Movement had created a big crisis inside the party and in the whole political scenery. Everybody was talking about the students’ issue, about the situation in Higher Education, although not always in a good way.

But the Government, despite their failure, didn’t withdraw. They accused the social democrats of hesitating and announced that they would pass the infamous reform law for the University. The situation there was bad for them, and that had to end.

The law was as bad as the former one and even worse. They had added some extra, mostly on University funding and punishing students for occupations, by introducing a high maximum limit of teaching weeks (if less than 13 teaching weeks are accomplished, the semester would be lost). The occupations were actually considered as a threat to the University. The asylum was now meant to protect only the right of work and study, not the freedom of expression and political action.

Everyone was very angry. But they were also tired. It had been a month of occupations, and many had gone home. But they had to keep it up. So the struggle continued.

Many were really frustrated because of the situation. The schools were closed, and every week there was demos all over Greece, often with heavy rioting. The greek society was polarized. The situation was very tense. Many asked for arrests of the rioters.

The Policed replied to their demand, 9 months after the 8th of June demo. On the 8th of March, the day that the new law was passed, the demo of 35.000 demonstrators in Athens was struck heavily by Police brutality. Hundreds were injured and 61 arrested, some with heavy accusations. Of course the Police hit the student blocks, and not the individual rioters.

Everybody was furious with the heavy repression. Big demos were organized, especially in Athens, and all other kinds of actions. But the students and the people were tired. The propaganda has done its work. The students were left alone and diminished, and the reform law was passed.

At the moment [that this text was written], the 23rd of March, the occupations still go on in some schools, about 200, but they are decreasing. Probably by Eastern vacation it will have vanished. Students are worried about semesters and exams, the Reform is now law of the country, and everything seems to go back to normal. But the problems of the University are still here, as well as unemployment and precarity. No one knows what will happen in the future. No one is satisfied with the situation. And what of the dissenting students? Will they rise again? ... Time will show...

4 comentários:

Dianovski disse...

muito obrigada por este post. foi me muito útil para escrever um artigo sobre este tema. embora me tenha baseado também nos outros post com a grécia relacionados, este resumiu perfeitamente. Obrigada! e Parabens por este blog! mesmo! está excelente!

Manel Afonso disse...

Pessoal do pararbolonha, é só para dar um toquezito... apesar de terem a melhor página na net sobre o ensino superior português não se podem descuidar... deviam pôr de quem é o texto em questão, a data, a origem etc. Fora isso continuem o bom trabalho.

Nelson Fraga disse...

Infelizmente com muito atraso (apenas devido a eu nunca mais cá ter passado no «PararBolonha» e pelo facto de não ter recebido no mail o comentário [acima] do Manel e assim não me dando conta da sua publicação) aqui ficam as devidas (e merecidas) informações:

Autor do texto: Dionisis (um nosso colega grego, nosso conhecido através de lides internéticas).
Data do texto: o próprio dia do "post", pois publiquei-o logo a seguir a tê-lo recebido via email.
Origem do texto: diversas mailing-lists de redes europeias de activistas por um outro Ensino Superior.

Nelson Fraga disse...

Corrigenda: ao reler o texto em causa dei-me conta [no seu último parágrafo] que o mesmo foi escrito a 23 de Março e que aqui o publiquei no dia 26... aqui fica esta correcção aos créditos que mencionei no comentário acima/anterior.