The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - July 12

Graduating high-school students at a German-speaking institute in northern Italy are engaged in an unprecedented spat over the school's tradition of making them leave their classroom as good as new. The students are refusing to bow to a school's threat to withhold their school-leaving certificates unless they whitewash the classroom walls.

The students have offered to pay for the walls to be scrubbed and given a clean lick of paint, but the school - in the German-speaking part of the Alto Adige - is holding to its firm line. "We've been doing this for two years and the students have accepted the idea they ought to clean up their classroom for the next year," said Barbara Willimek, the "headmistress of steel" as she has been dubbed by the local press.

"It is quite within our rights not to give out the certificates of the 'maturita' (a sort of baccalaureate) straight away, as long as we do it in good time for them to enrol at university," said deputy head Arthur Pernstich. "Willimek must be dreaming if she thinks I'm going to pick up a paint-roller just to get what's due to me," said 19-year-old Bernhard Messner.