Solidarity with Greece: Against the Athena Plan

Statement taken from petition:
We the undersigned call on the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Sport and Culture in Greece to withdraw the “Athena Plan” and particularly to stop the abolition of Social Work Department in TEI of Patras.
Since 2010 Greece has been engulfed in an unprecedented crisis, which has escalated into a full humanitarian crisis.
Dramatic reductions in salaries, pensions and welfare benefits; the erosion of the public sector in favour of privatizations; a sharp increase of poverty and unemployment, rise in suicides and a great deal of other social problems; these are some of crisis’ results. The complete dissolution of the already weak welfare state has led frontline social workers into working under extremely precarious working conditions. At the same time most of the service users experience marginalisation and social exclusion. Moreover, Higher Education faces unprecedented cuts. The recent ‘Athena plan’ for the restructuring of Higher Education pushes universities and polytechnics (TEI) further into privatisation and underfunding.
As part of this plan, the Government has announced that the Department of Social Work at TEI of Patras will be scraped. Apparently, in a country where the welfare sate is considered as luxury, social workers seemed to be unnecessary. The dissolution of Higher Education merely follows the recent obliteration of the NHS and welfare state.
The closure of the social work department in Patras will have multiple consequences on the welfare state and broader society alike. :
A. It deprives local communities from a profession (social work), which significantly contributes, to social empowerment, wellbeing and protection of human rights. One of the main roles of social workers in Greece has been to support the most vulnerable people in society. Over the last 35 years the Department of Social Work has developed close links with the local community. The abolition of the department results in the cancellation of a variety of interventions and actions aiming at alleviating social problems at a local level.
B. Over the last couple of years we have witnessed a degradation of social work education (crowded lecture theatres, insufficient equipment, reduction in academic staff). This has led to an increased risk of compromised quality of education compared to the international standards in Social Work. The ‘Athena plan’ will be final blow for social work education in Greece.
C. According to the Ministry’s decision no more students will be allowed to enrol to the Patras’ social work department and the programme will formal close after the graduation of the current cohort. Even this transitional period is expected to cause significant problems to the remaining students as they will have to carry on studying in a programme that will not receive any funding and will ultimately be scrapped.
D. Greek polytechnics mainly depend on external guest speakers and part time staff, due to chronic underfunding. The implementation of the ‘Athena plan’ will inevitably lead to the redundancy of all this member’s of staff who, given the current unemployment rate, will be forced to marginalisation or migration.
E. The ‘Athena plan’ will also drastically reduce the opportunities of the poorest in society for access to Higher Education.
Therefore we, the undersigned, demand:
-The immediate withdrawal of ‘Athena plan’.
-The protection of social work education and the reversal of decisions aiming at closures of social work schools.
-The further improvement of social work education in Greece.
– The withdrawal of draconian policies, which have pushed the Greek population into poverty and have dismantled the NHS and Welfare State.
All social work students, academics, practitioners, service user’s and local communities are determined to continue the fight against:
-The assault on young people’s rights to employment and education.
-The devaluation of the social work profession.
-The erosion of services for the most vulnerable people in society.
Initiative of academics, social workers and students Patras, Greece.

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