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Parents scrambling as teachers go on strike

Thousands of parents were forced to make alternative arrangements for their children on Thursday after state schools across large areas of Cyprus closed due to the teachers strike in the districts of Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta.

The strike is taking place at state schools, nurseries and special schools in the districts of Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta while a similar protest will take place in the districts of Limassol and Paphos on Thursday, June 15.

State primary school teachers’ union POED is unhappy over new teacher regulations – championed by Education Minister Costas Kadis – that were recently approved by parliament.

The teachers are worried the new system will push out substitute teachers that had been at state schools for as long as 30 months or more.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Costas Kadis has said the state was determined to move ahead with implementing the under-protest legislation.

Parent organisations have, meanwhile, complained that their children were being used as pawns in the teachers’ protests, which left them scrambling to find alternative care for their children.

“No one will lose their job in any different manner to what has applied until now,” Kadis told ACTIVE Radio, adding that those who had been posted at schools for 50 or 60 months, would, in line with a relevant Cabinet decision, be given open-ended contracts.

He said POED’s demand often involved substitute teachers filling in for permanent educators on sick or maternity leave for a shorter length of time and so, according to an opinion from Law Office of the Republic, could not be given open-ended contracts.

“All the teachers are accomplishing with their strike is upsetting pupils’ parents and the schools,” Kadis added.

“For this category of educators, the House decided to extend the transitional period up to 2027 meaning substitute teachers will only be appointed from the existing list for the purpose. So, no change is expected in their circumstances until 2027,” he said.

The minister said Cyprus had the most out-dated teacher appointment system in Europe before the House voted in the new legislation last Friday.

In later comments, he noted the system had seen many teachers appointed over the years when they were already over 50 and, in some cases, already close to retirement age. He also said that many had, before their appointment spent many years in jobs that had nothing to do with teaching or children.

The new law – which had been championed by Kadis – oversees the implementation of a system that will, from September 2018, see half of state school teachers appointed based on their results in specially-set state exams, their university degree, any additional academic qualifications they hold, and their existing teaching experience.

The remaining 50% will come from the current long list of potential candidates hired depending on the length of time they have been on the appointment list. The list will not be renewed and is expected to have been eclipsed by 2027.

Kadis also said he would agree to meet with teachers protesting outside his ministry at 11am on Thursday, noting: “We have never closed the door on anyone”.

Commenting on POED president Filios Fylaktou earlier calling him an enemy of education, Kadis said he would leave it to the teachers themselves to decide.

Commenting on the strike, meanwhile, the head of the Confederation of Primary School Parents Associations, Morfakis Solomonides, complained that “once again thousands of parents and pupils will be inconvenienced and made use of”.

He said the appointment system had not properly met the interests of the pupils and that parents had long called for a change.

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