Left without money by the government to buy heating oil, many towns and villages in northern and central Greece say they may have to shut down their freezing schools, with teachers saying students can’t study while they’re shivering in the cold.
“Many schools are facing serious problems with heating oil supplies and it won’t be long before they will have to suspend classes because of the cold weather,” the Teachers’ Federation (DOE) said in a statement.
The federation slammed the Ministry of Interior for delaying the disbursement of funds. It also criticized municipal authorities, which are responsible, in collaboration with so-called school councils, for the schools’ operational needs, such as heating.
DOE demanded that heating subsidies be granted directly to schools without the interference of municipal authorities. It also appeared to criticize the lack of transparency in the administration of finances by local government officials (OTA).
“The unjustified delays, the varying standards in the funding of each school and the absence of any monitoring (to establish, for example, if oil is being used to heat schools or other municipal buildings as well),” DOE said, all suggest the need for a change in the legal framework.
Schools are still waiting for the fourth, 20 million euro ($26.49 million) installment to meet their operational needs. Total funding for schools went down from 110 million euros ($145.72 million) in 2011 to 80 million ($106 million) this year. Greeks pay a special consumption tax on heating oil that makes up about 42 percent of the total cost. School councils have unsuccessfully campaigned for an exemption from the tax.
It’s not only schools affected, as many Greeks, crushed by austerity measures, have been unable to afford to buy heating oil and are turning to fireplaces if they have them, or electric heaters in a bid to stay warm. The heat was on the Parliament, however, and in other government buildings.