Greek debt crisis hits students24 September 2011
By Christine Saab
AS THE Euro debt crisis persists, the “Greek tragedy”, as the media has dubbed Greece’s failing economic system, is ostensibly becoming more and more threatening every day.
Although Greece has always been celebrated as the birthplace of western civilization and intellectual thought, the nation is now becoming ever more identified by its notoriously expensive debt than it is by its proud history.
With images and videos of protests plastered across the media, the outrage of the Greek public has been hard to ignore, but with the attention surrounding tax rises and pension cuts, have the young adults and students of Greece – the generation that is meant to lead the nation out of this – been ignored? What kind effect has this ain’t-got-no-money-in-the-bank situation really had on the Greek youth?
Campus Cashy travelled to Europe to find out…
Talking to Greek students, it’s obvious that the education system has not gone untouched. Countless high schools and primary schools have been forced to merge with one another or close down altogether due to insufficient funds; the ones that have managed to stay afloat don’t even have enough money for textbooks or supplies.
The situation for higher education institutions is, unfortunately, no different. As we near the end of September and the beginning of the academic calendar, many universities remain closed while others have already announced that there will be no first semester.
Although tuition for Greek students is, for the most part, paid for, students, unable to pay for books and living expenses, are still struggling to get by.
Student loans are, in theory, available to Greek students. However, they are rarely approved because everyone already has a loan to be paid off, forcing students to work part time.
Christos Ventouris (pictured above), 20, a university student in Athens, works part-time at a local cinema to pay for textbooks, which were free before the recession. “If I wasn’t living with my parents I wouldn’t be able to pay for such things,” he says.
“We face financial dead ends daily. No-one can find jobs. I know many people – friends and relatives – who have already left to seek a better life abroad. It might not be that obvious, but the middle and lower families are in despair.”
Although hopes are pinned on this generation to drive the country out of its economic turmoil, most young adults in Greece dream of moving abroad. “Anyone my age that has any sense at all wants to leave the country,” adds Christos.
The crisis has even begun to change the way students plan out their education. Prior to the recession, many students would opt for higher education even beyond a bachelor’s degree. This has all changed.
Employers feel that such students are too expensive to hire: they see them as an unnecessary expense rather than as a contribution, a minus rather than a plus if you will, and tend to choose applicants who demand less pay.
Although the crisis has affected the student population, as well as the nation as a whole, tremendously, many Greeks feel that nothing is being done about a situation that has been partly brought on by the Greek people themselves.
Pavlos Giannoukos, 21, another Greek student, says: “Sure they are prepared to protest, light things on fire, destroy public property. But for what? It isn’t fixing anything. Unfortunately no-one is prepared to start taking on responsibilities.”
What the future holds is unclear. Maybe Greece will find a way to keep their youth from fleeing the country. Maybe its people will see the error of their tax-evading ways. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll find a solution for their steadily deteriorating economy.
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