Teachers are demonstrating across Greece today against the austerity measures which are crippling education in the country. Already 40,000 jobs have been cut in schools. The recent suspension of 2500 teachers in vocational schools is only the latest attack on public education. As a result of this measure, thousands of young people have been left high and dry in the middle of courses and many have dropped out of school.

Only this summer 102 more vocational schools have been closed and thousands more contract teachers' posts lost. 90% of all contract teachers have lost their positions leading to higher class sizes and compulsory longer hours for teachers. Moreover pay for new teachers has been cut buy 45% - a starting teacher earns only 640 euros a month – one of the lowest in the Eurozone. Meanwhile many universities are closed because the mass suspension of administrative and ancillary staff has made it impossible for them to function.

In addition to all this, the Greek state is beginning to introduce the usual raft of neo-liberal measures such as standardised testing and punitive teacher evaluation. The research director of the secondary teachers union OLME, told teachersolidarity that he suspected that this was just the beginning, that although they are not talking about merit pay for teachers yet it is something which is looming. Moreover the denigration of teachers and public schools is increasing from media and government politicans, with teachers being derided as lazy and insensitive to their pupils.

However this attempt to turn the populace against teachers and public education is actively contested by teachers and their unions in the country. For a start, the idea that education is a public good and not something from which profits should be made has a very strong hold on public consciousness. More importantly however teachers are embedded in their local school communities. We visited a community pharmacy in a school in a huge low income area of Athens. Here homeless and unemployed people are able to access free medicines which they need and would otherwise be unable to get. The space for the pharmacy is in a school complex and has been made available by OLME. Moreover the local union and the teachers are working together with the community, and in particular parent groups, to provide and fight for other things which are needful including food and hot meals for children at lunch time.

Particularly in the secondary sector, education relies heavily on private tuition to enable children to pass their final exams. Teachers are volunteering to give such lessons so that children whose parents can't afford the tuition are able to have it. The OLME members we met emphasised again and again that what they were involved in was not charity but solidarity. At the same time as working with communities to solve some of the most pressing problems, they are fighting with them to ensure that the state restores the services for which people have fought for generations and to which they have a right. As a result of this work, it is of course much more difficult for the government to cast teachers and their unions as responsible for the crisis.

On November 6th teachers will be joining with workers across the public and private sectors in a general strike against austerity. Meanwhile today they are out on the streets, together with many from the solidarity groups in local communities to demand proper funding for education and an end to austerity.