How much do we care about the survival of the Greek language in Victoria’s tertiary level institutions?
Judging from the poor response to an initiative by the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) for the salvation of the cash-strapped Greek Studies Program at Monash University, we don’t care much.
To be bold, we do not give a damn for the future of our language in Victorian universities.
Eighteen community members attended the meeting held last Tuesday at the Community’s, headquarters in Lonsdale Street. If we subtract from this startling figure, the two members of the executive of GOCMV who were present, two journalists, and the two academics and four university students who attended – the actual number of community attendees reduces to the mesmerising figure of eight.
Wait. It gets more depressing.
The eight attendees were all individuals. Not a single representative of other communities, regional organisations, Modern Greek teacher bodies, or businesses and other potential sponsors showed up.
GOCMV secretary, Kostas Markou told the meeting the Community had issued invitations to 120 community groups and organisations, as well as to 30 eminent members of the community to attend the meeting, and expressed his bitter disappointment at the poor response.
“It seems our interest in community affairs dissipates when we are asked to commit money to a cause, although many community organisations can afford to contribute considerable sums to a worthy cause – such is the retention of our language at universities,” Mr Markou remarked.
“We are not discouraged by the poor response. At GOCMV we are determined to raise the monies necessary for the unimpeded function of the Greek Language Program at Monash University during the current academic year and beyond,” added Mr Markou.
“At this juncture of our fundraising effort we have received promises totalling $15,000 – approximately half the amount needed for this year, and we are confident of raising the balance in the weeks to come,” he assured the meeting.
The uninterrupted functioning of the Greek Language Program at Monash University this academic year depends upon the ability of the Greek community to finance the salary of Alexandros Giannadakis – a member of the teaching team at Monash seconded to the Program by the education office at the Greek Consulate in Melbourne.
Mr Giannadakis was selected internally to replace the former head of the Program Dr Evaggelia Anagnostou-Laoutidou who returned to Monash’s Department of Classical Studies.
However Mr Giannadakis’ tenure in Melbourne’s Consulate education office has expired, and the Ministry of Education of the Hellenic Rebublic has rejected his application for an extension; subsequently his salary for providing services to the Program must be financed by the University or external sources.
Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou told Tuesday’s meeting that the University has no such intention, hence the decision of the Program to turn to GOCMV for support.
Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou added that the Greek Consulate in Melbourne had promised to help raise $60,000 needed for the continuation of the Program the next two years.
However, the education office could not guarantee the secondment of a replacement for Mr Giannadakis.
Consul for Educational Affairs, Mr Vasileios Gkokas told Neos Kosmos that his office has not received any request from Monash University for financial assistance to the Greek Studies Program.
Mr Gkokas added that his office would have posted a replacement for Mr Giannadakis, had the Program submitted such request.
“However we never received such a request from the University. All we have received is a request from Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou addressed to both our office and the Ministry for Education of the Hellenic Republic, for an extension of Mr Giannadaki’s visa to Australia. The request was rejected by the Ministry of Education and our office relayed the relevant resolution to the Head of the School of Languages at Monash, Ms Rita Wilson.
“Our Office also informed Ms Wilson of our intention to second teachers to the Program for its needs. Ms Wilson suggested it would be impractical to change teaching staff while the first semester is in progress and we agreed to meet on April 17 to discuss means of supporting the Program.
“In the interim our Office had seconded a Primary School teacher to the Program to assist with its shortage of teaching staff, who was never utilised,” Mr Gkokas explained.
Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou confirmed the secondment of a teacher to the Program, but explained “she [the teacher] was not adequately qualified to teach at tertiary level, nor was she trained to use the new technology the Program has introduced to its courses”.
Asked what guarantees Monash University will provide for the future of the Greek Studies Program in return for financial help from the Greek community, Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou and Mr Giannadakis explained that the University offers no guarantees, and that the future of the Program will depend on the number of enrolments in the years to come.
“The university demands a 70 student threshold before it engages in discussion for the future of the Program. I can assure you there is increasing interest amongst our students hence our belief that the Program must be supported financially by the community until it becomes self-sufficient,” said Dr Anagnostou-Laoutidou.
Mr Giannadakis explained there are three courses running currently, – Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced – attended by approximately 50 students.
“At the moment the Intermediate course is the backbone of the Program and we are optimistic, based on the interest of our students, that the numbers will increase to 100, which is the minimum requirement set by the university for consideration of direct financing and for upgrading of the course to ‘Major’ status, that will enable our graduates to teach the Greek language and thus make it more attractive,” he said.
The meeting adopted a motion by Mr Theo Markos – Education Officer of GOCMV, for the formation of a broad-based fundraising committee which will appeal to community organisations, businesses and individuals for funds.
“Time is very critical. The sooner we mobilise, the sooner we will safeguard the existence and the future of the Greek Studies Program at Monash. I am confident we will be able to raise $30,000 the Program needs for this year, and then work harder for the achievement of our long term goals” Mr Markou said.
Indeed, time is of the essence to cure the collective apathy which has numbed our reflexes to the danger of permanent expulsion of these vital Modern Greek Programs from Monash and La Trobe Universities.