submitted by Nicholas Glytsos on 11.08.2023
For the 101st anniversary of Kythera High school
Kythera High school as a source of spirit and culture for the island
Nicholas P. Glytsos, Ph.D. (USA)
This article investigates the contribution and the impact of the creation and the operation of Kythera high school in the social mobility and the intellectual and cultural development of the island. This is done through the change in the way of thinking that education brings about, as well as the broader implications of high school functioning in society and the population’s life.
Let me note at the outset that whatever influence high school may have and have had in Kytherian society, did not start from nothing since secondary education existed on the island even one hundred years before its establishment. The difference is that education became more extensive, embracing over time broader population strata and shrinking the gender and regional inequalities, in other words, education became more “democratic.”
Right from the opening day, the Archimandrite teacher Efstathios B. Stathis gave the signal and showed the way for a wide influence that the high school owed to have in the local society, emphasizing the polymorphic value of education for all generations and conditions of life. In supporting his view, he quoted the Roman Markos Avrylios Kikeron, who said: “Education nourishes the youth, while gives joy to the elderly, is a jewel in happiness while in misfortune provides comfort and refuge, not only to the home country residents, but it also pleases the far emigrating persons.”
The high school was created in 1921, in an environment of broad “educational drought», and constitutes the critical threshold between the darkness of ignorance and the bright light of learning and social advancement. At that time, Kythera was an isolated place without any contact with the outside world and without any other source of knowledge and awareness. Under these conditions, high school was the only torch for enlightenment and the uplifting of the soul, it had therefore an even higher responsibility, than simple education, for the diffusion of knowledge and personal development. It provided the opportunity for the youth of all social strata and both genders to become informed citizens and acquire qualifications for a better life, also preparing the springboard for further education and social climbing without end.
During the first 6 years (1921-1926) from its establishment, the high school was attended by both male and female pupils, coming mostly from 4 local communities, namely, Chora, Leivadi, Mylopotamos and Potamos (61% of total) and 4 occupations, namely, ktimatikos, landowner, merchant, worker (56% of total), being by a great majority males (81% of total). From the communities mentioned, only Chora (the capital, hosting the high school) had from the beginning, for obvious reasons, almost equal numbers of boys and girls at school (in this period, all female pupils save three, were from Chora). Thus, under the then existing economic, social, and family conditions and attitudes, and without there being any institutional barriers, these data clearly reveal that, at the first years of its operation, the high school tended to generate a small elite of educated mostly males, focused locally and occupationally, which was necessary for the administration and the pursuit of progress at all levels.
Particularly disturbing was the big gender gap in education, condemning females to a disadvantaged social condition and discrimination, depriving the Kytherian society of a more substantial contribution of women in the improvement of cultural and social behavior. According to Tolstoi (or an Indian saying?), “the education of a male concerns the education of only one person whereas the education of a female is education of whole generations.”
The dominating social prejudice against the education of women is signaled by the fact that even in the above referred occupations that are relative more “progressive” in respect to education, their progressiveness is “lopsided,” limited only to boys (84 boys, against 18 girls). Except for the Chora municipality, the same phenomenon of lopsided progressiveness is met in the rest of the three other municipalities (Leivadi, Mylopotamos and Potamos).
The reasons for the abstention from secondary education, particularly during the first two-three decades, apart from the poverty of the families with school age children, included the need for working hands in the family farm, the social prejudice against young girls relocating to Chora for attending high school, away from the family nest and parental control, together with the strange views about the usefulness of education for women, etc.
However, the high school changed over time attitudes and social behaviors, by instilling the value of education in the population of the island, particularly the significance of women’s education. This was an undoubtedly tremendous progress and a liberation in the Kytherian society, which ended up with the emancipation of women, opening their horizons, at the start in a small, privileged number of them, and later in many. As a result, in a way, education fights back, by changing all those old times attitudes and behaviors, which were the very same forces denying the extension and democratization of education.
The long “transitional” period of gender inequality in education lasted up until the end of the 1970’s, where almost full equality was reached. In other words, although education is undoubtedly a basic pillar of narrowing down social distance and discrimination, in the case of Kythera, the creation of the high school, for several reasons already referred to, widened initially these inequalities until the social conditions matured and allowed education to create a balance among the contradictory tendencies of different social groups and localities of the island.
Further to its function as an institution of formal education, high school is also the basis of broader social and cultural activities, engaging pupils, former pupils, and other charismatic persons from the local community. It is extremely interesting that from the very first year of its operation, the pupils saved every month a little of their pocket money – the high school having no state finance -purchasing 120 books for setting up a library, and for creating a gym, as well as for organizing theatrical performances. The pupils were also engaged in a “scientific” endeavor, collecting, through oral interviews, various kinds of information regarding traditions and activities on the island. These extracurricular activities supplemented typical education, by familiarizing pupils with teamwork.
A decision of high significance taken by the high school, in 1947, was to establish scouting in Kythera, with the purpose of extending it all over the island. The first scouting chiefs were the late high school teachers Andreas Fatseas and Georgios Masselos (both my teachers), with scouts recruited among the pupils.
The activities of the scouts’ body included the organization of theatrical performances, showings of educational films addressed not only to scouts, but also to high school pupils and the public at large, the planting of fruit trees, the growing of ornamental and fruit trees, followed by the promotion of them on the island.
The high school contributes further to the culture of the island, by organizing theatrical performances, dancing events, film showings, etc. One particularly important theatrical entertainment was the stage of Sophocles Antigone, in 1955, in translation and teaching by the late high school teacher Emmanouel Semitekolos, theatrical scenery by the painter late Ioannis Spiliopoulos, also a high school teacher, and the cast made up of male and female pupils. The performance was a success and impressed the Kytherian audience, considering that for three consecutive Sundays the play was on, and many Kytherians from all over the island, attended it, having the opportunity, for the first time in their lives, to watch ancient tragedy.
Coming to our times, high school and Lyceum that together comprise the post-primary education in Kythera, are adjusted to the present trends of the extracurricular activities within and without the school, showing outgoingness and cooperation with other agencies or groups. This openness to society is pertinent, both for didactic reasons and for reasons of teachers and pupils showing their abilities to cope with such openness. An example of this kind is that of the “Panhellenic day against the school violence and bullying,” when the high school organized a tribute with film showing, debates and the collection of information using anonymous questionnaires. In addition, a photographic exhibition was set up for the 100th anniversary of the high school, entitled “Kythera high school 1921-2021: a hundred years of service on the island”.
Another invent that took place in the framework of extracurricular activities, was a ceremony dedicated to the memory of the well-known late British archaeologist George Huxley who engaged in archaeological excavations in Kythera. On another occasion, an invitation was extended to researchers from the Cretan Museum of Natural History, which, with the cooperation of high school and lyceum pupils, organized and presented educational programs with the theme “the relation between natural sciences and the environment.” Recently, the high school pupils participated in a common event of the Athens Observatory and the Municipality of Kythera and Antikythera for celebrating the 180th anniversary of the Observatory, during which a debate took place about its development over time.
More recent events of lyceum activities include the presentation of the European program INGAME to the pupils, the participation of the pupils in the 10th school campaign against school violence and bulling with the slogan “speak now”, organized by the “Hamogelo tou paidiou”. Last, the small cinematographic team of the lyceum, together with other youth teams from Ireland and Croatia, participated in a project of the Fresh Films.
It would have been a great omission to finish this article, without emphasizing the decisive and varied service of secondary education graduates of all times to the island of Kythera. Starting from that springboard set up by the high school, they pursue their career, and they perpetually help their homeland either from within or from without. Their contribution is invaluable because it enriches the island and improves people’s life, with the supply of cultural, social, and economic goods, necessary for the living and the development of man today.
A Greek version is published in the newspaper ΚΥΘΗΡΑΙΚΑ, May 2023 and the web Kythiraika.gr
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