Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Greek teachers find work in South Africa

Greek teachers find work in South Africa

    Just Watched

    Greek teachers find work in South Africa

Greek teachers find work in South Africa 02:37

Story highlights

  • Greek teachers are finding work teaching the Greek language in South Africa
  • Teachers pay for relocation to South Africa but still receive salary from Greek government
  • Up to 50,000 Greeks live in South Africa, according to Greek consulate in Johannesburg

For a woman whose country is on the brink of financial collapse, Greek teacher Julie Koukliati is surprisingly cheerful.

"You only hear bad things about Europe and Greece but people there still have hope," she said. "They are still falling in love, going on vacation, they are getting on with their lives."

Koukliati is quick to add, however, that many of her friends and family are inquiring about South Africa, where three weeks ago she started a new job teaching Greek at a private school in the city of Pretoria.

Koukliati is in South Africa as part of an initiative by the education ministry in her country to teach the Greek language to expats living abroad. However, the program has been drastically reduced as Greece tries to cut back on spending. Over 2,000 teachers were sent overseas in 2009, and last year the number was cut down to 1,430. The teachers pay for their own travel and relocation but continue to receive a salary from the Greek government.

Teachers' salaries have recently been cut by the Greek government, and Koukliati says she now earns 200 euros less than she did two years ago. She's expecting another cut soon as her government explores more ways of saving money. Working in South Africa, however, will cushion that blow.

"The truth is I get two salaries now," she told CNN. "One from Greece and one from here."

Apart from the primary school where she goes in the morning, Koukliati teaches older kids at a Greek community center. She told CNN: "The community here asked the ministry of education back home to take care of this part of Greece which is in South Africa, and it's a strong part."

Up to 50,000 Greeks live in South Africa, according to the Consulate General of Greece in Johannesburg. Community organizations have told CNN that they are receiving more job applications from electricians and artists desperate to escape the tough economic conditions in Greece.

When asked how she feels about the fact Greek teachers are losing their jobs back home while she is paid to teach foreigners, Koukliati insists she's still serving her country. She said of her students: "Their roots are in Greece. Their parents and grandparents don't want them to lose their roots. In their hearts and their parents' hearts Greece is always there. So I'm still working for Greece, that's for sure."

The number of Greeks living in South Africa has dropped sharply in the past decade. A report by the General Secretariat of Greeks abroad estimated that 100,000 expats lived in South Africa in 2004 -- roughly twice the number living there today.

South Africa has its own unemployment problems, but a deficit in specialized skills could see the once dwindling Greek community burgeon again.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.