THERE is something seriously wrong when a group of protesting parents and children, by making a fuss, can veto an education ministry’s decision about a public school. What kind of impression does it create, when the education minister overturns a decision by his officials as soon as a few parents and schoolchildren demand it? From this standpoint, it is that parents and their children can dictate an education ministry decision, simply by making a bit of noise.
We saw this perverse phenomenon in action at the Evriviadio gymnasium in Larnaca, at which the ministry decided to place 10 teenagers that were excluded from other public schools because of poor discipline. The idea was that the youngsters, between 14 and 17 would go to the school for a few days per week and follow a separate curriculum in order to receive their school-leaving certificate. On the first day of school on Thursday, parents showed up to express their disapproval while children boycotted classes in protest.
Within a few hours, education minister Costas Kadis satisfied the protesters, publicly undermining the ministry officials who had made the decision, based on EU rules that stipulated the re-inclusion of problem teenagers in public schools. Ministry officials, aware there might have been a reaction, arranged for the 10 teenagers to follow a different programme, with different teachers in a separate class; psychological support was to be provided as well. The only legitimate concern raised by parents was regarding the age group – the children attending the gymnasium were younger (12 to 14) than the 10.
The question now, is what public school would take the 10 problem children? A precedent has been set and it would be no surprise if the ministry tries to place other problem children in schools in other towns. Would the ministry taken them out as soon as a few parents start shouting and children boycott classes? How would the ministry promote the inclusiveness stipulated by EU rules changing a decision as soon as parents protest?
In this case, the ministry decided to place the 10 children in a government building on their own, which, educationally, is the worst possible arrangement as it treats them as pariahs, whereas the objective should be their return to a proper school. The ministry is aware of this and its original decision was the correct one, even though it should have been properly thought through, instead of backing down as soon as a few parents started moaning.