For fifty years, the French school in Ventimiglia has been teaching the language of Racine to generations of Italians, enabling them to take up work along the frontier, in Monaco and surrounding towns.
But now the school, which has occupied the same premises since its inception, is to be charged a rent by the local commune.
The town council has authorized the association of publicly-owned buildings to annul the current agreement and to impose a rent which could cost the French school up to 75,000 euros a year.
Ventimiglia council justifies its decision on the grounds that the reception areas for children no longer meet hygiene and security regulations for schools. Additionally, the council wants to re-house on one site four current municipal offices, including the tax office which already shares its premises with the school. Understandably this has led to protests from parents.
These, at least, are the official reasons.
But on closer inspection it looks as though the school is the victim of an ancient quarrel over finances between the Mayor of Ventimiglia Gaetano Scullino and his Menton counterpart Jean-Claude Guibal, concerning the fee that the Italians pay to the French town for sewage treatment.
‘The French school is hosted free of charge by our commune, yet we have to pay Menton several tens of thousands of euros for the treatment of waste-water from homes near the French border,’ says Sculino. They do not resent the presence of the French school: for the mayor it’s simply to do with good management of the commune’s real estate.