By Peter Stevenson
THE FINAL seven graduates from the forestry college have been told that they will not be employed by the forestry department, despite 60 years of tradition, which saw graduates inducted into the department’s ranks.
Following a decision by the finance ministry, the graduates will have to look for employment elsewhere.
Graduates from the college have been hired after their graduation on a temporary basis by the forestry department since the college was opened 60 years ago.
The college is due to close following last Sunday’s graduation ceremony despite playing an important role in training forestry officials for more than half a century.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis was surprised when he was informed by the graduates at the ceremony that they would not be employed by the forestry department.
Kouyialis assured the Cyprus Mail that every effort was being made to overturn the finance ministry’s decision.
“A proposal has been sent to the finance ministry and I am in constant contact with the minister in our efforts to arrange for these seven graduates to be employed at the forestry department,” he said.
The agriculture minister denied claims by the Green Party that he had been verbally abused by the students and their parents during the ceremony.
“The students came to me and informed me of their worries and I told them I would personally handle the matter. The ceremony was a success and any rumours that there was shouting or swearing are completely unfounded,” he said.
Kouyialis revealed that he had not been informed that the seven graduates were not going to be employed by the forestry department but he said he was confident the matter would have a positive resolution.
Typically, graduates from the college would begin working at the department on a temporary basis, until a full-time position opens up.
According to the college principal, Andreas Mavrogiakoumas, the forestry department has been in constant communication with the finance ministry in an attempts to find a solution.
“Despite the department’s pleas, the finance ministry, citing the financial crisis and the freeze on civil servant employment decided that the graduates would not be given jobs at the forestry department,” he said.
The college was created to train students so they could eventually get employment at the forestry department much like a police academy.
Mavrogiakoumas echoed the minister’s words and told the Mail that efforts were being made by all of the relevant parties to find a solution.
Earlier yesterday the Green Party had come out in protest at the finance ministry’s decision, calling on the government to hire the seven graduates. The party also called on the government keep the college open.
“The disappearance of specially-trained personnel is a huge mistake,” a statement said.
Situated in Prodromos, the college is in a central position within the island’s main state forest. It was ideally located for students training in forestry. The college was also highly beneficial for the village of Prodromos, as part of the students’ education included working on and tending to the forest grounds immediately surrounding the college, with students often being on a 24-hour duty for the upkeep of the area. “The decision to close down the college has come after a four-year-long study on whether it should continue operating and has not been premature or hasty,” Andreas Christou, forestry department spokesman said.
He said the growing number of forestry graduates from Greece, who are equally or better qualified than Cyprus Forestry College graduates, had made it increasingly difficult for those from the Prodromos college to find jobs. High running costs were another reason which led to the decision to close the college, he said.
The Cyprus Forestry College was established in 1951 and offered diplomas and higher diplomas in forestry.