In a sign of the deepening economic crisis gripping Greece, many of the students’ parents who are now on the brink of leaving the country are pleading with the government to save them from austerity cuts and the crippling impact of the debt crisis.
As the economic crisis worsens, they say, there is little choice but to continue their education.
As of this week, there are about 800,000 students from Athens, most of them studying at private schools.
But many parents are in limbo as the government struggles to cope with a record debt of around 300 billion euros ($400 billion) and the country’s economy is on the verge of recession.
Athens is home to some of the world’s wealthiest students, who have earned a fortune by studying in top-tier universities in the US and Europe.
Some parents are now pleading with lawmakers to help them get their children back.
In a letter to the head of the government, students’ rights activist Kostas Tsigalas wrote that the education system in Greece is being “decimated” by austerity cuts, and said he was in talks with the president of the parliament.
Talks have been ongoing between Tsigals group and the education minister, Panagiotis Paraskevas.
The letter was sent in response to a request by Tsigalyou to hold a meeting with parents, which he had previously made in November.
The letters, sent to the ministry’s director of education, Nikos Kastis, said they were hoping to convince the minister to take steps to make it easier for parents to leave the country and return.
“We believe that the government must be more generous, and to the parents, it’s better to be in Greece than in the United States, and better to go abroad than in Greece,” said Tsigalos group’s president, Dimitris Kostopoulos.
But he also warned that parents who want to leave must not be discouraged by the government’s plans to reduce class sizes and classes by up to 40%.
“They are trying to save money, they are trying for this year.
If they stop, it will be impossible for them to get back,” he said.
In Athens, students who want their children to stay in the country have taken to the streets to protest against austerity cuts.
They have been demanding a minimum wage increase of 1.8% and the cancellation of plans for a new public library.
Many parents have already decided to stay.
“The situation is becoming very difficult.
It’s the most difficult thing for us,” said student Nikos Papadimitriou, 21.
“We are getting ready to leave, we don’t know when.
We have no other option than to stay and to go home.””
If we don [leave], we will go back to Greece, but it will not be easy.”
The students’ unions say that the situation is far worse than they imagined and that they have been in touch with the teachers’ union, the Public Service Employees Union (PSEU), which has expressed concern about the impact of budget cuts.
“There are some parents who have decided to leave,” said Kostis, the education ministry director.
“They are not alone, they have reached the point where they have lost hope.”
“They don’t see the possibility of leaving.
If we don[leave], there will be no option but to go back,” said Papadinos father, Nikitos Papasakis.
“There are people who are living in their cars, in their homes, without electricity, without running water.
They don’t even know where they are going.”
Papadinos told Al Jazeera that he had been told that the city of Athens would lose its electricity supply and there was no way that his son would be able to return.
His mother, a teacher in Athens’ Polytechnic University, said that the family had been in contact with the PSEU about the situation.
“It’s hard for them.
They are desperate, they don’t have any money,” she said.
“But we are here to protect our children, and we are waiting to hear from the government.”
According to Papadopoulos, the PS EU had asked for an extension to their deadline to meet the demands of the unions, and he said they had not received a response.
“I am in tears.
My son has already been expelled from school.
I cannot go back.”
But in another message, he said the union had made a compromise and agreed to postpone the strike.
He said that his wife had been informed that she would have to stay home with their three children and the children’s parents.
“They want to put my son in the orphanage,” he added.
“If they do that, we will not have any option but leave.”
The union is expected to take the case to the Greek parliament on Friday.