By Evie Andreou
THE House Education Committee yesterday warned private schools unless they only have a few days to issue reports and graduation certificates to students whose fees have not been paid before they prepare a bill to penalise the withholding of such documents.
Acting committee chairman Andreas Themistocleous said that students’ rights to receive school reports and certificates is not an extrapolation of their parents’ dues and said that even though a relevant government bill is been prepared the committee would not wait for it, taking the matter into their own hands to prepare a more urgent one.
The government bill on the Law of the foundation and operation of private schools has been recently sent to the Attorney General’s office for legal scrutiny.
Themistocleous said that the committee wants to promote punishment for this practice before parliament recesses for the summer because if the parliament agreed with the measure, the law will be implemented immediately.
According to Themistocleous, the law will secure the students’ right to graduation, moving onto the next class and the continuation of their studies.
Parents have complained to the Ombudswoman and the Children’s Rights Commissioner that some private schools inhibit students’ transfer to state schools by withholding their records while parents cannot afford tuition.
Committee member Andros Kafkalias said that there is an issue of government institutional intervention so that the students’ inalienable rights are secured and that it is inconceivable that a student is being used as a lever from anyone so that they can receive dues.
“These two cannot be connected,” he said and added that “children cannot be convicted just because their sin is that they have unemployed parents”.
Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba expressed her belief that private schools must facilitate student transfers to public schools regardless of their parents’ financial situation and urged the Education Ministry to intervene.
Koursoumba said she has received an increasing number of complaints claiming that private schools won’t allow students to take their exams. She characterised these practices as power abuse and said they offend children’s dignity and are against the spirit of the Children’s Rights Convention.
But she acknowledged every school’s right to claim through legal ways dues owed to them.
However, she said no child should be expected to leave in the middle of a school year, a position she has made to the ministry as far back as 2010. The ministry said the same in a circular sent to private schools in 2011. Two more circulars expressing a similar position have been sent to private schools ion September last year and the beginning of this month.