As a graduate of a state school, former PM and Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras was successful in life and later wrote articles praising state education and critical of the pseudo-elite systems to blame for the collapse of the Greek economy. Just two years ago, he stated that state education was a ‘privilege’ freely given to himself and millions of Greeks, and it was one that he wanted future generations to enjoy. His words have come to haunt him following his decision to send his two sons to two of the most expensive private schools of Athens.
Tsipras had used his own state school background to his advantage, boasting that he had never, as a student, set foot in a private education facility where the neoliberal minds are nursed. A product of free education, he stated that public education is a “conquest”.
Two years later and the tables have turned. The school bells knelled the death of Tsipras as champion of free state education and the rise of another Tsipras, that of hypocrite. Not only did he choose to turn his back on a system he stated to believe in in favor of two of the most expensive schools for his son, but he did this at a time when he bounced up VAT for private education institutions to 23%, making it even harder for ordinary wage earners to have the option of making a similar choice for their own kids.
Betty and Alexis Tsipras, the couple who wore their working class status on their sleeves and who made international headlines for choosing to live in the middle-class suburb of Kypseli will now trek from Ano Kypseli to the Athens Center so that their children can be educated along with the offsprings of members of Athenian high society. Furthermore, Hill School is one with a huge waiting list where parents sign up their kids from childbirth… Does this mean that Betty signed up her son soon after she left the maternity ward as is the practise with this particular school? Was Tsipras a hypocrite all along or did he merely jump the waiting list?
Flashback to September 10, 2006. Proto Thema back then had written about conservative New Democracy Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis decision to send his twins to a state kindergarten in Rafina despite the fact that he had not met the conditions required by the school’s waiting list. Two years alter, despite the huge shortages faced by schools, the one that the Karamanlis’ twins attended was fully renovated. The conservative PM nonetheless soldiered on with his state school choice.
On his part, the leftist PM is ignoring the power of example and making an opposite choice to the belief system he purports to champion. In the past, SYRIZA deputies have harshly criticised politicians who sent their kids to private schools, calling them “enemies of free state education” and complaining that they “consider education a privilege for the few on a field that prepares the elite of tomorrow.” This adds an air of hypocrisy to their leader’s own decision.
One cannot help but look back on moves made by former education minister Aristeidis Baltas who considered “excellence” a stain and chose to abolish entry exams for selective private schools. Hence, once again, parents wishing to seek excellence in education chose to send their children to private schools while the hoi polloi is further distanced from this option.
The man who once occupied state school buildings and claims to have become stronger from this battle is now sending his kids to the same school that the Mitsotakis family and the wealthy set chose, the man who fought to better the worse is now sending his own kids to nothing but the best! Past statements and catch phrases such as, “Education is an inalienable public good!” now have a hollow ring to them…
The school bell knelled an end to Tsipras’ beliefs as his kids rubbed shoulders with the offspring of the rich at a time when the school year started with 25,000 empty places in public education.
Meanwhile, Tsipras is paying 16,000 euros per year in fees alone for his sons’ private education!