The new school year commenced on Monday throughout Greece with the traditional blessing ceremonies, as approximately 1.3 million primary and secondary school pupils put aside toys and rejoined friends and classmates in the school yards.
The pupils arrived at the schools in the morning donning sunny smiles, a few yawns, and brand new bookbags, but will return home with empty bookbags as the start of the 2011-2012 academic year is overshadowed by the lack of the set school textbooks, which for the first time in many years are not ready for distribution to pupils at the start of the year.
Several schools are expected to face major shortages as the books failed to be printed on time, after the process became mired in Greece's labyrinthine legal system.
Islands and remote regions near the borders are the areas expected to be best supplied with the required books, receiving 85 percent of the needed books, while the ministry hopes to cover the shortages for the main body of books within a few days in most areas.
In the meantime, pupils will be issued with DVDs containing all the information in the school textbooks that they can download on their PC and laptops, as well as photocopies in the first few days.
The ministry has blamed the delay on the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, which it said took 49 days longer than the time allowed by law to issue a decision concerning a tender for the purchase of paper. The final decision came out at the end of August, leaving insufficient time for the books to be printed.
The ministry has also invited pupils from previous years to return their old books so that these can be used by children in lower classes.
Education minister Anna Diamantopoulou, who attended the opening at the 1st public elementary school in the Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi, assured that the ministry has dealt with the vacancies in educational staff, who she said are all in their positions.
As for the lack of textbooks, she said that with the digital school and the cooperation of teachers, parents and related agencies the temporary shortage will be dealt with.
Monday also marked the opening of enrollment in the country's higher education schools of the students that passed the higher education examinations. Enrollment will run through September 30.