IT IS NOT surprising that more than 17,000 people expressed interest in taking the exams for teaching jobs in the public schools. It is a lot of people applying for 2,000 jobs that would be available over two school years starting from September 2018. Then again, teaching jobs in the public sector are much sought after by graduates as they guarantee high pay that is constantly rising, a short working day, which finishes at 1pm, half the days of the year off work, absolute job security and a monthly pension twice the average wage on retirement.
Teaching in public schools is a lottery ticket, which was why quite a few Greek nationals applied to take the exams. Education minister Costas Kadis, while acknowledging there was interest from Greeks declined to give numbers while being interviewed on a radio show yesterday. Perhaps he did not want to give teaching unions another reason to protest and threaten industrial action. There is an ongoing dispute over the ministry’s refusal to give permanent teaching jobs to contract teachers, who were employed for more than 30 months, as both teaching unions were demanding.
It is perfectly understandable for Greek nationals to sit the exams, scheduled for September and October, as teacher wages are three to four times higher than in Greece and working conditions much better. It is good for the education system as it increases competition, which means a better quality of teacher would be hired, assuming the selection process was not tampered with. There have been complaints from the unions about the Greeks coming to take Cypriot jobs – Greek nationalism goes out the window when public jobs are at stake – although these have been relatively low-key.
This is the reason the minister avoided giving any numbers on Thursday. It has to be said that any complaints about Greek applicants is politically, economically and morally unjustified. Greek nationals have every right to apply because of the free movement of labour within the EU. More importantly, for decades, even before EU membership, thousands of Greek Cypriots worked in Greece, without anyone there complaining. Now that Greece’s economy is in deep trouble and unemployment is at record levels, it would be disgraceful to argue against giving public jobs to Greek nationals in Cyprus. The increase in competition for places would also be good for our schools.
Hopefully, nobody will make a fuss if it is reported that there is a sizeable number of Greeks sitting the teaching exams, but knowing what teaching unions are like the possibility cannot be ruled out.