The majority of Italian schoolchildren are back to school this week after the traditional three month summer break. Although going back to the classroom is never an easy task, things are made all the more difficult this year with the enforcement of the new education reform laws, which naturally meets with protests by teachers and students alike.
Teachers who are still without a permanent posting (precari) blocked traffic over the Messina Strait to Sicily on Sunday while many students turned up yesterday wearing yellow construction worker helmets “to protect them from the falling rubble from the schools which are falling apart”, both literally and metaphorically in many cases. A group of 500 gathered to protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Rome yesterday. Minister Maria Stella Gelmini defended her new rulings and stated that she could hardly remember a new school year which didn’t begin with such protests. Teachers union FLC-CGIL has already threatened a strike on October 1st against spending cuts which have effectively reduced the number of teaching hours and teachers’ jobs.
Italian children start primary school (scuola elementare) at 6 years old and after five years move on to the scuola media for a further three. The scuola superiore then takes them to a final exam at 19 years old, or even later if a student has failed to pass end of year exams, meaning the whole year has to be repeated.