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June 29, 2014
June 29, 2014

Greece: The Ministry of Education sends PWD teachers to unemployment!

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Greece: The Ministry of Education sends PWD teachers to unemployment!

The government once again shows its callous indifference towards the sensitive group of persons with disabilities, as demonstrated by the amendment being prepared by the Ministry of Education. Although the public consultation on the matter has been completed, the people being affected were never invited to express their views on the legislative committee. Essentially the Ministry supersedes the existing law provisions regarding the recruitment of educational personnel and psychologists, who belong to the group of persons with disabilities.

Outside of the positions of permanent teachers and specialists (psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, assistants, etc.), the existing law on issues for the developmentally disabled also includes many positions in special education, covered through private law contracts for teachers working by the hour or for deputy teachers. They are appointed based on their qualifications and discharged at the end of the school year; thus, they are burdened with resubmitting a letter of interest for next year.

The existing law 3699 gives a priority to deputy teachers with disabilities through a certain table, known as Table A. Therefore, for each specialty, there is table A, where all candidate deputy teachers with disabilities are placed and a Table B where the rest of the candidates are placed. This bill requires the Ministry prioritise 20% of the appointments to candidates with disabilities. That is, for every four candidates in list B (applicants for employment without any impairment) a candidate with disabilities from Table A must be recruited.

On April 17 a new bill for Special Education was held under consultation, and is now expected to be submitted to the Parliament shortly. This bill, according to the complaint of teachers of the special category raised in koutipandoras.gr, violated basic human rights through the changes in appointment and point system of PWD teachers.

  1. It eliminates Table A and the priority of 20% of PWD teachers and specialists, giving them only 3 points for their impairment.
  2. It introduces a precondition of a lifelong disability of 67% and above.

In fact, it states that employees in special education (teachers, psychologists, social workers, etc.) who suffer from lifelong visual or hearing impairments of 67% or from quadriplegia will be appointed, get diverted,  or transferred ONLY to schools with students having the same disabilities, with a priority of 30% by industry and specialty. In other words, the deaf and hard of hearing will be teaching in schools for the deaf, the blind in schools for the blind, and the quadriplegic in schools for the mobility disabled.

The consequences, were the bill finally passed, according to teachers with disabilities, would be devastating:

  1. “The elimination of Table A and our inclusion in the general table, will lead many teachers with disabilities to refuse their positions, since dropping in the point system list (i.e. losing their priority) would mean that they would be sent in provincial schools, away from hospitals, private doctors, etc. needed for their survival (e.g. kidney patients). All those years of struggling to establish table A and the General Education and now we are back to square one. The disability of a person is very serious, it impairs their life. And not a simple skill worth of 3 points in the point system, such as a master’s degree.
  2. The introduction of the word “lifelong” in the new disability bill, essentially abolishes the right of many teachers to apply for employment, because some categories of PWD, such as cancer patients do not necessarily receive “lifelong” status on their medical examination report because unfortunately, in Greece, the Disability Certification Centres (CPC) operate restrictively; they do not provide the “lifelong” status even in expected cases, such as chronic and irreversible disabilities. While, of course, the law on the recognition of “lifelong” is in our favour and we are justified through appeals, the process is extremely time consuming and many deputy teachers will not be able to prepare their documents in time.

However, the exclusion of the deaf/hard of hearing, blind and quadriplegic teachers, is the most anachronistic measure proposed by this bill, as there are not but a few schools for deaf, blind and mobility disabled and the limited positions available are not sufficient to absorb the overwhelming number of deputy teachers of the respective impairments. Thus, these people will be unemployed, since they won’t be eligible for appointment in special schools, which do not relate to their disability” conclude teachers, psychologists and social workers who are affected by changes in the existing legislative framework.

How does the Ministry explain its actions?

To justify these actions the Ministry speaks about allegations by parents to teachers with disabilities. “Table A belongs to the social criteria and is now abolished”, Deputy Minister says. “Table A was the table of PWD, who were hired in preference to a percentage of 20%, which means that we should hire 4 of Table B to balance the employment for each one from the list of PWD. This fact was causing problems with the way that intakes worked, i.e. there was no way to control where someone is going after being hired. For example a deaf or a blind teacher could be employed and be assigned to a child with autism. This could not be foreseen and we could control it and act upon it. There was no way for this to happen. We had too many reports from parents complaining about the teacher who had been assigned to their child and unfortunately we could not do anything about it”.

The whole of the community of teachers disabilities is reacting to the above statement, as it is not fair for complaints to a specific person to be generalised to all the teachers with disabilities. Affected teachers believe that the complaints are merely a pretext for the Ministry to drive all teachers with disabilities off the public sector gradually, by applying the logic of cuts and social exclusion, violating human rights. “These practices downgrade our dignity, stigmatise us and create negative stereotypes in the wider community,” they specifically say to koutipandoras.gr.

In fact, they point out that the International Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 27 provides the conditions that each country must meet, regarding the work and employment of the disabled population.

What needs to be understood, of which teachers, psychologists,  and social workers of this sensitive category emphasise, is that by the abolition of the right of 1-4 on recruitment and its replacement by the three points for their disability, they are practically knocked out of the competition with their colleagues, who do not face the same problems and likely had easier access to master’s and doctorate degrees, than them, thus de facto being “exiled” to Keadas…

Additionally, affected teachers during the last 24 hours have proceeded with an online petition that has already surpassed 340 signatures, which includes the letter sent to the Director of Special Education. Also attached is a document of protest with signatures specifically from persons with hearing impairments.

It is worth noting that the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (ESAMEA) sent a memo/protest to the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to Evangelos Venizelos, and to the Subcommittee studying disability issues of the Parliament, asking for the removal of the bill.

Sign the petition here.

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