The political fuss sparked by the posting of the teaching exam questions on the education ministry website some 45 minutes before the exam was due to start was out of all proportion. Perhaps it is because we are in an election campaign and candidates’ teams are always on the lookout for an excuse to go on the offensive, especially as the incumbent seeking re-election is far ahead in opinion polls.
Making the exam questions public a little before the exams were due to start was an embarrassing blunder but presenting it as a major scandal for which the government and, by implication, the president were to blame showed a complete lack of perspective. The questions were probably posted on the website by a ministry civil servant who wanted to go home and could not wait for the exam to start or was under the impression exams were scheduled to start sooner than he thought.
Should the government be held responsible for the incompetence or laziness of an official? Opposition parties seemed to think so, accusing the government of sloppiness and the inability to organise fair exams, which was rather unfair. The blunder did not favour any candidate as the exam was cancelled as soon as what happened became known.
Inevitably the teaching unions, which want the selection of candidates for teaching posts through exams put back a year, have used the blunder to demand that the whole process was declared null and void – any excuse to delay the introduction of meritocratic criteria in the recruitment of teachers. If the government gave in to this demand it would be a much bigger scandal than Monday’s mistake but there is no chance of this happening. Education Minister Costas Kadis was in defiant mood, saying nobody would be allowed to stop the reform on which the ministry has been working for the last two years.
Akel meanwhile, showing its support for the reactionary unions, accused the government of blundering in trying to rush through the reform before the elections. That is one good thing to come from the elections. If Akel wanted to criticise the government for electioneering there is no shortage of issues. It could slam the absurd National Fund for Compensation that would compensate bank bondholders or the way the president is satisfying the demand of every interest group that visits the presidential palace.
Sadly neither Akel nor the other presidential candidates would dare criticise the president for blatantly wasting taxpayers’ money because they would do exactly the same. This is why they felt obliged to make such a big issue out of a stupid mistake by a civil servant.