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Our View: Taking school children too seriously

The banner reads 'The memorandum damages education'

“THEY did not even study our proposals or invite us to a dialogue.” Any group in Cyprus could have said this, but in this case it was a bunch of teenage school-kids – known as the Pancyprian Coordinating Committee of Students (PSEM) – playing the grown-ups. The boys and girls held a one-hour boycott of lessons on Wednesday so they could demonstrate outside the education ministry in Nicosia (and district education offices in the other towns).

Their aim, according to news reports, was to “renew the exercise of pressure on the education ministry so it would deal with their problems and proposals that were submitted months ago but had yet to receive a response.” After meetings they had had with the competent minister, the report continued, “they decided to boycott school for an hour because the answer they were given was that their demands could not be implemented.”

This could have been a spoof news report but it was not. Everyone takes spotty teenagers seriously in Cyprus, including the media which cover this nonsense as if it were serious news, nobody daring to state the obvious – that children have no say in the running of the country. As 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds do not have the right to vote it goes without saying that they do not have the right to tell the government how it should spend the taxpayer’s money. But nobody mentions this in case they are accused of being undemocratic.

So in Cyprus a teenagers’ playgroup like PSEM could complain because the education ministry did “not even study our proposals or invite us to a dialogue.” The idea that there should be a dialogue about government spending with 14-year-olds is beyond belief but this is what happens when the education minister, fearing accusations of being undemocratic, agrees to meet the kids to talk to them even if he had no intention of listening to what they had to say.

PSEM has been demanding university entry exam fees are lowered, reduced rates at state institutes, the abolition of bus fares and – best of all – an increase of the places at state universities and for all these to be filled, presumably, even if candidates are not good enough. The last demand – increasing universities’ places and filling them – is Akel thinking, which might be an indication of who is behind the protesting children.

This is why it is imperative for all people who care for this country’s future to stop taking this daft teenage unionism seriously. We should be laughing at it while schools should impose tougher punishments on the children who boycott classes, instead of the minister engaging in dialogue with them. Unless, we want a society made up of adults with the Akel mindset – people that expect the state to provide everything for free and demonstrate to impose their demands on the rest of us.

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