One of the most pleasant moments we live as a community is the opening of our schools every September. We are delighted to see the images of our children, nicely dressed, fresh and clean, in the courtyard, the little ones a bit scared of the unknown world ahead of them, the older ones happy to see their friends again, the teachers welcoming them with a smile and love.
It is the most optimistic image of the Community, our hope for the future. These days bring a collective smile of optimism that speaks volumes for the future of our community, an optimism that the Greek-American community never lost even during the most difficult times over the past 100 years – and we will not lose it now.
This, like graduation time, is also a good time to express our gratitude to the parents, teachers, members of the educational committees, the clergy, and anyone else who contributes even the slightest to this major cause of the Community and Hellenism.
Inevitably, however, we are also confronted by the challenges and problems of our educational system.
Yesterday, for example, when the schools of Greece open we saw that the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Education visited various schools to offer their good wishes to the children, parents and the teaching staff, to encourage them and prove with their presence the importance that they attribute to Education for the future of the country.
On the other hand, the schools in our Community are ‘orphans’. They did not see a corresponding attendance of high officials. Not even our Archbishop was present at any of the schools – he will visit, they say, later, when his schedule allows. We don’t doubt it.
However, this is also – perhaps unintentionally – tangible proof of the secondary importance they attribute to this issue.
Unfortunately, it is not only the current Archbishop who treated Education in our Community this way. It was also the case with archbishops before him – but we expected somehow more from the youthful Elpidophoros. This is one of the most difficult topics for me to understand. I just cannot understand their behavior in this cases, the matter of Education, because it is part of the responsibilities they shoulder when enthroned, since our schools belong to the Church.
But it is not only the formal part, the responsibility that arises from the position they assume. It is that they themselves are usually educated people, among the most educated and from whom one would expect that they would a good part of their time to Education, not only because they have the responsibility but because they know its value for the children and the future of the Community.
Nor, unfortunately, does official Greece, the Ministry of Education, give this issue the value and priority it deserves. Greek officials continue the tradition of living like ostriches, unable, or unwilling or both to see the problems – and the opportunities. Not to feel that the Education of Hellenes in the Diaspora is their responsibility, notwithstanding that it is the Greek state’s best interest, is mind boggling.
And they don’t even do the basics. They do not even take care of the pensions of our teachers, people who usually dedicate their lives with passion and love to the education of the children of our Community, sending a very disappointing message to the younger generations of our teachers.
Surely this situation cannot continue. The Authorities, here and in Greece, cannot ‘wash their hands’ and leave the parents and our school officials to fight alone.
As they have been doing for generations.
Something has to be done.