Another school year was starting, with students arriving for their first day and lining up by grade, but when one mother dropped off her first-grader and watched him take his place, she wondered: Where were all the children?
“There were so few of them,” said Vasso Harisiadi, who had attended school in the same town. “I thought the yard would be full of kids.”
The newest class of children at Kalpaki Elementary was, instead, a reflection of Greece’s intensifying demographic troubles. For 2018, there were just 13 first-graders. A few students lived in villages where they were the only kids. A half-dozen other schools in the area had recently shuttered. More and more would-be parents were moving away or holding off on having children — because they were jobless or, like Kalpaki’s first-grade teacher, were making too little to afford it.
“At the moment, I can’t even consider kids,” said the teacher, Maria Bersou, 33, who earns $18,000 a year. “I can’t save money at all.”
The Greek economy no longer looms over Europe as a bailout-dependent, euro-imperiling danger, but the country is only beginning to contend with the next phase of peril: a baby bust that has raised the likelihood of a shrunken, weakened Greece for years to come.
The road overlooking the Greek village of Eleousa, between Ioannina and Kalpaki. (Loulou d'Aki for The Washington Post)Ο δρόμος με θέα το ελληνικό χωριό Ελεούσα, ανάμεσα στα Ιωάννινα και το Καλπάκι. (Loulou d'Aki για το Washington Post)