Schoolchildren in the northern Greek municipality of Naoussa have not attended regular classes for over two weeks ever since local authorities decided to shut all of the schools in the area. The reason, the authorities claim, was that budget cutbacks had left them with only enough money to heat the schools for a few days each month in freezing winter temperatures.

In the wake of the closures parents, teachers and students together with the mayor and other local officials all joined in demonstrations demanding that the Ministry of Education allocate more funds for heating classrooms. The government however has yet to provide a substantive response.

Nevertheless more heating oil is on its way – donated by the George Soros funded Open Society Institute in order to allow the schools to reopen. However the donation is reportedly meeting resistance from a somewhat unexpected group: the parents association, which yesterday voted to reject the donation. The reason? The demand that the state live up to its responsibilities, combined with a marked suspicion of George Soros’s motives.

“First of all, for us it justifiably raised questions as to why all of a sudden this philanthropist, this tycoon, suddenly thought about the problems in the schools in Naoussa. We are not convinced that his offer is selfless,” the president of the parents association Manolis Galitis was quoted as telling the Macedonia Reporting Group. “We are convinced that from this ‘benefaction’ Mr Soros expects something in return and we don’t want our children’s schools involved in that kind of game,” he said.

Furthermore the president added that they didn’t want George Soros doing something that is the job of the government. “We could buy heating oil ourselves using the parents’ money. But that isn’t the role of the association. The proper functioning of the schools is the duty of the state. What sort of society are we where we can’t operate schools? That’s why we never asked for any charity. We demand that the state secure the right of our children, and all children, to an education.”

For his part the Naoussa mayor Tasos Karabatzos expressed a level of disbelief at the parents refusal of the donation stressing that the Open Society Institute had not singled out Naoussa but was contributing to troubled schools throughout Greece. “We are waiting for this donation not because the problem will be decisively solved with 20 tonnes of heating oil,” he told Makedonia Reporting Group, “but because it will help us deal with the situation at least temporarily, something we think is very important.”

In any case, despite the displeasure of the parents, George Soros will get his way apparently. According to the mayor delivery of the heating oil will go ahead as planned given that motions passed by the parent’s association are not binding for any authorities.