By Elias Hazou
IN A bid to placate educators, the government has said it was doing all it could to limit the number of part-time teachers whose contracts would not be renewed for the new school year.
Education Minister Kyriakos Kenevezos has, however, indicated that the need for teachers has lessened compared to last year because student attendance in public elementary and high schools this fall is forecast to drop by as much as 2,000.
Speaking over the weekend, the minister stressed that the government did not want to increase the jobless rate, but added that the numbers didn’t lie. “The number of students shapes the need [for teachers], and don’t think there is anyone out there…who does not understand this parameter,” Kenevezos said.
He attributed the decrease in students to many foreign nationals with children leaving the island.
But teachers unions are crying foul after the release last week of the list of transfers and appointments for elementary schools, showing that some 100 fewer part-time and substitute teachers had their contracts renewed.
The corresponding list for high-school teachers was posted yesterday, showing that around 550 high-school teachers had their contracts renewed; no data for last year was immediately available for a direct comparison.
Estimates vary, but it’s believed that, in all, up to 200 fewer contract teachers will be working in public schools during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Primary-school teachers union POED yesterday denounced the anticipated reductions in contractual staff, and called for an urgent meeting with the minister.
In a statement, the union hinted that the government had back-pedalled on what appeared to have been a gentlemen’s agreement struck earlier this year to maintain all contract employees in public education.
Back in April, parliament approved scaled cuts (0.8 to 2.0 per cent) on the salaries of all public-sector workers, including teachers – a fiscal measure stipulated in the loan agreement between Cyprus and its international lenders.
The teachers unions say they went along with it because at the time they were promised that the savings generated from the pay cuts would be used to secure all contract employees.
The government is now singing a different tune, POED said. The union insists that the need for educators remains, and that letting teachers go will deal a “severe blow” to education.
Traditionally, contract teachers far outnumber full-time staff. According to data from the Educational Service Commission, in 2011 there were a little under 600 contract teachers in primary education compared to 200 permanent staff.