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Secondary school pupils in walkout protest

State pupils union PSEM was on Wednesday morning determined to push ahead with a one-period walkout in protest over an Education Ministry decision to introduce more exams.

Speaking to state radio, PSEM president Zafiris Demetriou said a union representation would, during the third period walkout, be submitting the results of a pupil vote on the issue to Education Minister Costas Kadis, who had previously pleaded with the pupils to reconsider their protest.

“We will make the results of the vote public once it has been submitted to the minister,” Demetriou said, adding that he could reveal the majority of the participating pupils had been against the introduction of more frequent exams.

PSEM is concerned more frequent exam periods will put undue pressure on pupils and force them into a cycle of constant preparation and exam anxiety as well as prompting more to turn to extra lessons in the afternoons in an effort to get better marks.

However, he also acknowledged that only just over half of the eligible pupils had participated in the vote, retorting that Sunday’s municipal and local elections had also had a low turnout rate.

As well as the more frequent exam periods, Demetriou said pupils were also concerned about issues such as the ministry’s decision to reduce the number of absences a pupil would be permitted before having to repeat a class. These were recently reduced from 157 periods to 134. “What happens if a pupil becomes ill?” Demetriou said.

Also commenting on state radio, the Head of Secondary Education at the Education Ministry Kyprianos Louis said PSEM had been an equal partner in all the previous discussions on these issues and that only its current leadership appeared to disapprove.

“PSEM was considered an equal partner, took part in the discussion and submitted suggestions which were seriously taken into account,” Louis said.

He also noted that legislation introducing the more frequent exam periods was now in its final stages and could be submitted to the House for approval as early as January 11. Louis said the student vote on this and other issues could not be considered valid as it had not been properly formulated.

On the issue of absences, the Education Ministry official said pupil illness would always be taken into account.

He also said that reform was necessary to ensure Cypriot pupils’ academic performances improved on a European level, particularly after recent evaluations once again cast them in a bad light.

Louis said Attorney General Costas Clerides had in a previous ruling made it clear missing classes for protests called by PSEM was not the same as missing class to attend a PSEM event and so any pupils who participated in the walk out would not be considered as having a legitimate reason to be absent.

He said teacehrs would remain in class to give the lesson as normal and called on pupils to do the same.

“I also welcome pupils to enter into creative dialogue so we can listen to their concerns,” Louis added.

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