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Teachers fight racism in class

Hundreds of secondary school students in Greece talked about racism and xenophobia in class on Thursday – the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, according to the Greek Federation of Public Secondary School Teachers (OLME).

OLME said it obtained special permission from the education ministry to allow teachers to take time from their regular classes to hold talks.

Meanwhile, a special concert will be held early this evening (starts at 5pm) at the Anasa Cultural Centre in Thiseio, near downtown Athens. Performers – all of them the Greece-born children of immigrants, include McYinka, Bandallusia, Renovatio and Peacemakers.

The concert is being organised by various local groups, including the Antifascist Student Front, Open Society, Association of Human Rights and dozens of immigrant community groups.

Organisers say the concert and gathering will aim to send a message against measures denying citizenship to the Greece-born children of immigrants.

Under new draft legislation soon to be tabled in parliament, the Greece-born children of immigrants will probably have to wait longer and file a lot more paperwork in order to apply for Greek citizenship. A previous law, passed by Pasok in 2010 and which granted automatic citizenship rights to the children of immigrants whose parents are longterm residents or naturalised citizens, was ruled unconstitutional by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, in February.

Meanwhile, a number of talks and conferences have been organised this week to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racism.

For instance, anti-racism workshops for teachers and student are being held this week and next week by the University of Athens. The school had also organised a two-day conference to discuss the growth in popularity of Golden Dawn in the country’s secondary schools and the wider problem of how to deal with fascism in the classroom.

Organisers say the conference is a response to Golden Dawn’s interest in recruiting school students and hope that it will equip secondary teachers with the necessary interpretative tools and contexts to engage with students who view history from a fascist perspective.

“The worst thing you can do with a 15-year-old who denies the Nazi Holocaust is to kick him out of the classroom. We need tools to engage with them,” says Costas Gaganakis, one of the organisers.

Naming the day

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21 – the day when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid in South Africa exactly 53 years ago. The United Nations decided to dedicate this date to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination back in 1966.

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