Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Education

NG to hire surplus contract teachers

By Elias Hazou

PUBLIC-school teachers whose contracts were not renewed for the 2013-2014 academic year are to get jobs in the National Guard, the government said yesterday, without disclosing details.

Education minister Kyriacos Kenevezos called a news conference to address criticism levelled at the administration by main opposition party AKEL.

Over the weekend, the President said that during the Cabinet’s session today a bill would be discussed on the hiring of some 150 contract teachers by the National Guard.

AKEL drew on the President’s remarks to say they were an admission that the government has axed 150 positions in education despite promises that no one would lose their job.

Teachers unions meanwhile criticised the government for taking unilateral action without engaging them in dialogue.

The education minister yesterday reiterated that hiring practices are primarily dictated by the need for educators.

Given that the number of children enrolled in kindergartens, elementary and high schools has dropped by around 2,500 compared to last year, he said, it was obvious that the need for contract teachers had also diminished.

Far from increasing the number of jobless people, Kenevezos said, the government was doing all it could to minimise unemployment.

Calling AKEL’s accusations a “gross distortion of the truth,” the minister recalled that it was the previous administration that had agreed not to renew the contracts of 500 state school teachers. This measure was stipulated in a memorandum of understanding between Cyprus and its international lenders in November 2012, concluded under the watch of the previous (AKEL) administration.

The DISY administration, which took office in March, struck this provision from a new memorandum negotiated in April of this year. Instead, it arranged a slightly bigger wage cut for public-sector employees – including teachers – to generate savings to pay the contract teachers.

Another clause removed from the November deal with the troika was an increase in the teaching time of teachers by one academic period “in due time to have full effect in budget year 2014.”

If implemented, this would have reduced the need for substitute teachers.

Dismissing the criticism as unfair, Kenevezos said that had the earlier agreement been implemented, up to 700 educators might now be joining the ranks of the unemployed; instead, the talk is now about only 150 persons, and even for these the government is seeking ways of finding them jobs.

Meanwhile as a result of a blanket freeze on promotions in the public sector – approved by parliament this April as part of cutbacks – current teachers cannot advance to administrative positions, meaning less teaching slots being freed up.

Still, it’s not clear whether the Cabinet will in fact today discuss a bill or proposal for employing contract teachers in the military. Kenevezos yesterday dodged questions on this, declining to go into details.

His fallback position was that President Anastasiades had merely made a ‘political pronouncement’ on the issue, and that in any case the definite number of contract teachers out of a job in the education sector would not be known until next month just before the start of the new academic year.

It’s also not clear what these educators would be doing in the army. Filios Fylactou, head of the primary school teachers union POED, said unions were completely in the dark about the government’s intentions.

The teachers might give conscripts lessons on road safety, he speculated.

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