“Pirates in Education” are running for a seat in the Greek teachers federation

“Pirates in Education” are running for a seat in the Greek teachers federation

The teacher and chairman of the Board of PPGRThanasis Gounaris, had an excellent idea last November about creating the ballot list called “Pirates in Education” . This ballot list, which is supported by PPGR, is for the teachers’ national elections of representatives to their service board. His idea was warmly embraced by his colleagues nationwide and the results were an unexpectedly good result of 2,05%.  In January of this year, another ballot was formed by two teachers and brought a result of 5,4%. This result was very close to winning a seat on the seven-member Board of Directors called “Aristotles”, the Association of Athens teachers. It should be noted that “Pirates in Education” lost the seat by only six votes because of the ballot supported by PASOK, a party that has been in the government of Greece for decades. Now “Pirates in Education” are running for a seat in the Board of Representatives in the Teachers’ Federation of Greece (Didaskaliki Omospondia Elladas, DOE). These elections will be held at local level at the end of May. Greek Pirates are highly motivated for this campaign. They are trying to influence all their friends and acquaintances to vote for their ballot containing their three candidates, again in “Aristotles” of Athens. Basic principles of Pirate teachers are direct participatory democracy, transparency, free exchange of information and the protection of privacy.

Pirates in Education logo

CC BY Pirates in Education

Talking to the Pirate Times about “Pirates in Education”, Thanasis Gounaris noted that he and his fellow teachers are threatening the “status quo” of DOE which they seem to dislike. “They do not want to be disturbed and are really annoyed by the publications in our Facebook group  which show irregularities of a current member of the Board of DOE”, Gounaris stated.

Pirate Times: Why did these Facebook publications annoy the board? 
Thanasis Gounaris: Board of DOE was annoyed because in our facebook group pages were put up publications, showing that a member was sentenced by courts for financial irregularities and abuse of power, while holding other public offices either as elected representative or appointed by the government. They were more annoyed by our disclosures in a simple facebook group of teachers which has only 115 members, rather than other media’s coverage which are read daily by thousands of readers! The absurd thing here is that after the convictions and complaints of “Pirates in Education”, the sentenced member was appointed as a chairman in the Board of Directors in a public organization! The Board never answered to the complaints that were sent to the personal emails of the members and secretariat. At first place the answer was indifference and after that they posted personal attacks against “Pirates in Education” and myself. The political establishment that led the country to the precipice covers its people, and whatever they did,  it’s for them good enough only to bring votes!

Pirate Times: What do “Pirates in Education” stand for?
Thanasis Gounaris: We are directly linked to PPGR’s ideology. Basic principles of “Pirates in Education” are transparency, free exchange of information, protection of privacy. Policies and programs must be developed from scratch and always be in permanent evolution. It is an opportunity, now, to consider our place and become members.The representation should be reformed to what really should be. Away from entrenched and ineffective tactics and union “dinosaurs” that replicate themselves and only aim to maintain their positions.Unfortunately, the current situation in unionization, in primary education, has led to the creation of a trade union establishment. Union professionals are into permanent positions and posts, with the sole objective of maintaining an outdated practice, without vision or mood for actions in the right direction. Old fashioned tactics and newly created “formations” with old materials trying to maintain the beaten track in teachers’ unionization. This time, though, they’ll find us towards them, “Pirates in Education” and direct participatory democracy we cherish, one of our core principles. We still want to release free our cultural heritage and making it accessible to everyone. All non-commercial collection, use, processing and distribution of culture should be explicitly encouraged. Technologies that limit the legal rights of consumers to copy and use information or culture, called DRM (Digital rights management) should be banned. The non-commercial distribution publicized culture, information or knowledge – with a clear exception of personal data – should not be restricted or bring some punishment.We want to create cultural commons. Finally our most important task is to make sure that the world will not fall back into a new “Dark Ages” before that happens, because we’ve seen it happening. By participating we can change teachers’ today and build children’s tomorrow.

Pirate Times: How did you get the idea to form “Pirates in Education”?
Thanasis Gounaris: The idea came spontaneously as it was an answer to a question a friend of mine asked me last summer:  “Are you a teacher or not? Are there any “Pirates in Education?” Thus for the first time “Pirates in Education” were created. We took part on last November’s teachers’ national elections with only one candidate and presence in the internet and got a percentage of 2.05% and 1.254 votes. After 2 months, at the elections of “Aristotle”, the Association of Athens teachers, with two candidates and a small campaign and a plenary speech that was based on our basic principles, we got 5.4% and came very close to the winning of a seat to the seven-member Board of Directors. I must note that we lost the seat for only six votes by the ballot supported by PASOK, a party that was in government of Greece for decades! This only illustrates the damage suffered by big parties that carry the weight of responsibility for crisis in Greece. They began to take us seriously! This time on May 30th is the last showdown for the biennium 2012-2014. We run for the elections of the Board of Representatives of DOE, again in Athens’ “Aristotle” with three candidates and go for the overrun to elect the first unionized Pirate! For the record, the candidates, on November 2012 was only me, on January 2013, Markos Papaioannou  joined the ballot and for this election, although the ballot will be deposited approximately on May 20th, there is a third member, a woman candidate, Electra Pagoni. Great assistance for this effort, outside education’s fields, offered by pirate Simos Dalkyriades, coordinator of PPGR’s press team, who created our page and still manages it , and my wife Penelope Petropoulou  who coordinated all a communication job! She is a member of PPGR and a candidate in Athens in last national elections.

Thanks to everyone in PPGR for helping “Pirates in Education” to form.

Pirate Times: What are the conditions in primary education for Greece?
Thanasis Gounaris: “Take a stand for Greek teachers”. This is a clear call to all, to recognize the crucial role of education in transforming the lives of learners, everywhere, at all levels of education. In this difficult economic and social context in which teachers work, we have to find ways to improve their professional status and working conditions of all of the staff of education. In today’s Greece of crisis, Greeks teachers were one of the most underpaid civil servants and ended up on the brink of economic misery. The impoverishment of Greek teacher placed him on the sidelines, especially since society needs more than ever his contribution to lift the morale of a nation bankrupted not only economically, but also morally and institutionally. Half a million children in Greece are living below the poverty line, while the rate of child poverty in our country, according to Eurostat data, is estimated at 30%. The economic crisis in addition to unemployment, poverty and the widening of inequality is accompanied by reduced health benefits, food insecurity, poor quality diet and increased childhood morbidity and mortality. There is no mercy by so-called as “our lenders” for sensitive groups of the Greek population. More and more people in Greece are losing their jobs and therefore their income and gradually falling into abject poverty. Greek teachers have to manage the humanitarian crisis which is underway in Greek society and Greek schools and to ensure, as far as possible, the cohesion of Greek people that’s been put at risk. This is teacher’s biggest role today.

Pirate Times: Do you think “Pirates in Education” will make it and win a seat?
Thanasis Gounaris: On January’s elections we almost made it! I think that it is so easy as difficult, at the same time! It depends on teachers’ turn out, the votes you’ve got, the election system and of course luck!. It is also depends on the preparations you’ve made. Board of Representatives is like “the parliament of teachers” and it would be good to have representatives from all over Greece. Through this interview I would like to invite all interested teachers to join “Pirates in Education” and form ballots in other regions, except Athens, to contact with us in the following address  agounar@sch.gr. It would be a great pleasure to meet teachers who want to change the traditional system.

Pirate Times: What is your background in pirate politics?
Thanasis Gounaris: I am a founding member of PPGR. I’m involved with internet since its creation, even before the days of BBS. I’m a member of one of the largest wireless networks in Europe, the “Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network” with 20,000 members. An “airwave pirate” dealt with free radio from 1979 to 2004, been judged 2 times for it. I am also a radio amateur since 1997, my characteristic is SV1EDI.

Pirate Times: What about the progress of PPGR? What’s the assessment so far?
Thanasis Gounaris: We had some good and bad times but I really think that the final assessment leaning toward the good! We are very pleased by the acceptance showed by Greek citizens.

Pirate Times: What is your comment on the move for the creation of a new party that resembles pirates?
Thanasis Gounaris: Yesterday I saw a statement from ex-members intending to establish a new PP, today I am informed about another movement to set up a third PP with ecological guidance! Well, every pirate could form a PP of his own! But so far we are the only official PP in Greece. We were founded as a party and recognized by the Greek state on January 14, 2012, we have our statutes, flags and banners and we are open to be copied! We are ordinary member of PPI since April 2012, having our goals and coming closer to them day by day.

Pirate Times:  Is there a risk for PPGR to split?
Thanasis Gounaris: There is no such issue! I would like to inform you that the whole situation bridged the differences that existed between pirates and PPGR is now highly rallied! Every ambition is legitimate, but in the battle arena all judged by the result. We are running in DOE’s elections with a potential advantage and a highly accepted ballot by teachers who showed that in previous encounters. We strive to achieve the best and I believe that Greek pirates are in the conscience of Greek society that honoured us in the last May’s elections with 33,000 votes. “Pirates in Education”, supported by PPGR indicates the degree of acceptance, not only to teachers but across Greek society. We focus on our goal which is none other than the dissemination of pirate spirit. We are working with a master plan and approaching steadily, step by step to this objective. We are here and we are fighting for the rights and freedom of Greek citizens and I’m asking my fellow teachers to warmly vote, once again, for “Pirates in Education”!

Featured image: CC BY Thanasis Gounaris