The 1st Social Cooperative Enterprise (SCE) School of Private Tuition is an initiative launched in the context of social economy.
To this end, the initiative attempts to establish an educational unit that will treat the family of the child attending the school, as well as the child itself and the teachers working there, based on uniform criteria.
The main parameter of our planning was to create a cheap school of private tuition, which would offer decent rates to employees, based on pre-memorandum levels, and would be staffed with people capable of ensuring a high level of studies for the students.
From the very first moment, it was evident that it would be impossible to establish such a school, since it is far from almost any other proposal currently in the market.
Such an endeavour constitutes a major social innovation, as nothing similar had been established in Greece so far and there was no experience in such initiatives. Moreover, the effort was to be launched in an extremely competitive environment. Adding to this the fact that the licensing legislation for secondary education schools of private tuition changed completely in the last year, it is obvious that as easy it is to voice the idea, it is just as hard to implement it.
Preparation for the venture commenced in the beginning of March 2013. By decision of the Social Cooperative governing committee, a procedure to amend its Articles of Association started, so as to include the licensing of a school of private tuition in the scope of the SCE activities.
The Social Economy Registry of the Greek Ministry of Labour eventually approved the amendment to the Articles of Association in late April. So it was then possible to start looking for a space to house our venture.
Given that the economic crisis had been hard on the greater Halandri business centre, there were quite a few spaces that could commercially house the school, but very few were actually adequate for this purpose. A satisfactory space was located eventually, at an area easily accessible by all suburban neighbourhoods. Renovation works started in the beginning of May, at around about the same time as the long trek to obtain a licence for the school.
During the licensing process, we were met with the same reaction we had gotten from other public-service departments that had never dealt with the concepts of “social economy” and “social cooperative” before: indifference, suspicion, insults, refusal to cooperate, delays and pettiness. All these simply confirmed yet again the idea we had formed, i.e. the absence of a uniform way of dealing with social practices and social economy, despite the amendments to the legislation.
The tip of the iceberg was when the legal department of licensing organisation EOPPEP (National Organisation for the Certification of Qualifications and Vocational Guidance) refused to recognise the SCE as a legal entity and demanded that all members provide their personal tax clearance details. Common logic and the explicit requirement of the law eventually prevailed. As of Thursday 28/8, our school of private tuition has ensured the necessary licence and it could legally operate from the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
However, what many thought was the main problem was not actually as significant. The financial issue was resolved, but not because people have money to spare. Once people realise that what we are trying to accomplish is not just a way to make a fast buck, but something entirely different, then the money can be found. So by collecting some money any way we could, we secured a marginal minimum amount that was adequate enough to commence operations.
The hardest, though, was to find a team of teachers who, apart from being excellent tutors and capable of undertaking the task, would also be willing to undertake the management of this venture, along with the parents. Easier said than done. As with any cooperative endeavour, i.e. any attempt to disrupt the force of habit and the roles it entails, the hardest part is to establish a contra operation to the one an employee has been used to. If the typical businessman seeks to make a profit from his activities, then based on contraposition, if the activity yields no business profit, then the businessman cannot exist, and a series of management practices would have to be replaced by collective actions and decisions. And this should mainly apply for the management.
The high unemployment in the sector, the brutal exploitation of employees by businessmen in the sector, the very low hourly wages and the inexistence of employment contracts were the background we used to explore the possibility of finding a tutoring team. And we were proven right. We quickly met with many young people who had both professional training and relevant work experience. So we were confident we could amass the necessary human resources to implement our plan. These will be the people we will work with at the school of private tuition. There are over 1 million employees throughout Europe who are just like these people and they work with over 500,000 SCEs: together and in the spirit of solidarity.