A challenging but rewarding journey

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Established as an independent, faith-based co-educational institution, St George College is the one and only Greek College in South Australia, therefore we were delighted when general manager Father Diogenis Patsouris invited us to have a closer look around the premises, just as the new school year begins. As we are celebrating just over 30 years since operation, Father Diogenis explains that the college first opened its doors back in 1984, when the parish of St George decided it was time Greek families in South Australia had a school where they could send their children and trust their families could stay connected with their Greek religion, culture and language. “The real turning point for our college was when we decided to take over Thebarton Primary School in 1994, as well as the Thebarton Girls High School, and although it has been a tough journey and a risky project at times, we have felt so rewarded and proud along the way,” Father Patsouris explains.The college, which operates under the power of the Greek Community and leadership of the Greek Archdiocese, has grown from 27 students and two classrooms in its first year, to over 500 student enrolments and outstanding academic results for 2014. This outcome has definitely left everyone in the community feeling proud and inspired to continue. “We are still here and growing, supporting our history and culture, representing our Greek heritage, but accepting multiculturalism at the same time,” explains Father Patsouris as he is preparing to welcome the old and new families for the annual blessing agiasmo today.While the main aim of the college is to provide excellence in education through high quality teaching and learning programs, there is obviously a strong focus on the Orthodox faith, the Modern Greek language, the Greek culture and its influence on humanity.But after a quick look around the room, it’s quite obvious that Saint George College has welcomed students from various cultural backgrounds. “The majority of the children for 2015 are definitely of Greek descent, second or third generation Greek, although, in the last few years a small but significant percentage is also made up from students from other countries like Korea, China and Japan. Our religion is all about acceptance and respect for one another,” says Father Patsouris.“The aim of our college is to include every family who shares the same values and goals with us and who respects the rules of our school and our community. We accept all children, we do not discriminate and we do not ‘force’ religion to those students who might come from different religious backgrounds,” he adds, while we all find it extremely astonishing as to how respectful of our religion these children are as they are excitedly proceeding to take the priest’s blessing today. “The international students get blessed and attend our religious ceremonies, even though they have the right to be exempt from religious studies should they wish to, yet, as you can see, they choose to participate and embrace our culture which I always find inspiring,” Father Patsouris admits. With the motto of the College being ‘AIEN APIΣTEYEIN’ (‘Always Excelling’) the focus for every member of the college community is to strive to achieve their best in every facet of each and every endeavour.But the question that always rises within a multicultural society is exactly this: How easy and achievable is it to stick to our traditions, protect our language and teach our culture to a generation that is always exposed in a totally different, multicultural environment? “At the end of the day, it comes down to one thing,” Father Diogenis says: “How much do you want it? How important is it for the family to stay connected with its heritage?” According to the 56 teachers and the school board of the college, balance is the key to make it work. “At St George College, the Greek language is obligatory; the skeleton and college curriculum follows the formal government curriculum while adding the language and religion (taught in both Greek and English) so that language and culture are maintained at a good level,” says Father Patsouris. “It’s unquestionable that the aim of the college is to provide primary education while keeping the Greek tradition alive,” he concludes. “So, let’s keep moving with the times, but keep our heritage alive, as a reminder in those difficult times that, at the end of the day, we really should be proud to be Greek. “last_img