second chance

Panos Charalampidis + Mary Chairetaki

2014 - 2015


For many of us some things, like the completion of primary education at a young age, are considered as given. For others though, adverse circumstances have thwarted their plans. People, of any age, under the burden of the current economic crisis and unemployment, decide to return to school, to obtain a degree. These students vary; they are involved – besides obtaining the necessary qualifications – in a personal struggle with time, they try to win back the lost opportunity, they attempt to redefine themselves or even to fulfil the expectations of their loved ones.

The Second Chance is a personal project for the SCS (Second Chance School) of Mytilene, Greece. It consists of a series of portraits of pupils (Greeks and immigrants), teachers, as well as photographs of the school area. In this way, we recorded the school ecosystem and its ramifications. We also took pictures of students' objects and we collected student manuscripts, answering questions about their past and their hopes for the future, which, in some cases, constitute comprehensive confessions of their lives and recollections.

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  • Despina loved school theatrical plays.

  • "Our father wasn’t bad, he was despotic “Don’t do this, don’t do that, what will the villagers say and things like that”. My brother was thirteen then and I was eight. I loved the animals very much then and at weekends I went with them and I liked it. When I was at the fourth grade my father stopped me from school for a year to be with him day and night and help him. The rest of my siblings were very young so it was my turn."

  • A children's project: a handmade house. The second chance school operates in the afternoon, until early at night. In the morning, the building houses a regular children’s school. It is peculiar to see adults within a school environment intended for youngsters.

  • Physics teacher holding a model of crystal salt. A large part of the school environment has been formed by people deeply devoted to their profession, almost like having a love affair with their job.

  • Cover skin from artificial part.

  • Teaching in the school of second chance is, most of the time, a balancing exercise between the students' needs and the essential lesson goals.

  • A person’s coming back to school is not always about improving his/her life status or have better job opportunities. For some students, the returning to school fulfils the wish of a loved one.

  • Kristo was born in Albania and lives in Greece. He has his own family and works at a meat market. He promised to his late father, he would get his high school diploma.

  • The return to school is a difficult decision. Finishing is even more difficult, as it needs considerable determination and support from the student’s family and close ones.

  • Sofia and Galini (mother and daughter)
    "Although we used tourist visas to move into Greece, we turned out to stay there "για πάντα" [for ever]. My husband worked in the Dimarhio [town council] of the village of Agia Paraskevi as a wage worker. Our son was 8 years old, and our daughter – 18. We had to work sklira [very hard]…
    Later on, we gave in marriage our daughter; our son left school, then gymnasium and lyceum, entered the radio-engineering academy in Crete.
    We began to dream of having our own cottage next to our daughter’s place, in Mytilene."

  • "Pythagorean theorem".

  • The crisis hit harder the lower economic class. Many were left unemployed and desperate, especially those who were undereducated. This school can offer a chance to these people, helping them to remain a vital part of the society.

  • Ioannis's dog at his house.

  • Cross of candles' smoke over the entryway.

  • Second chance school students are not the only ones dreaming about a better life. Most of the personnel are hourly wage overqualified teachers, working on a few months contract. Every year the hiring procedures for these schools are getting more and more belated, and these people stay unemployed for months, as jobs are scarce.

  • Political map of Greece. As the economical recession was deepening, political instability emerged, reflecting the growing contradictions within the Greek society.

  • In this school, there is a wide range of student personalities, with different needs and diverse life goals. Mihalis works as a deejay in a local club.

  • Flowers in a makeshift vase from the principal’s office. The schools of second chance are struggling to provide quality education making the most out of the available resources.

  • "I am in Greece now. I came from Afghanistan with my parents. I've gone through much hardship in my country. I’ve come to go to a better place to have a better future. I loved photography since childhood. God willing, if my dream comes true, I want to start a new life again. I want to study."

  • Grid of scanned students' photos from the school's archives.