By Evie Andreou and Angelos Anastasiou
The education ministry is considering installing lockers in schools where students can store their mobile phones instead of having them in their bags inside the classroom, an official said yesterday.
Dr Kyprianos Louis, head of secondary education at the ministry was responding to a debate sparked earlier in the week about the problems caused by the use or possession of mobiles throughout class time.
The issue was discussed at the House education committee on Tuesday. Deputies heard that although public-school regulations forbid students from bringing mobile phones into the classroom, mounting instances of misuse on school premises occur.
Committee chairman Georgios Tasou said the issue had reached alarming proportions as students often use their phones during lessons to cheat in tests, send text messages, or record others’ personal information.
Tasou called on the education ministry to engage the Children’s Rights Commissioner, teachers’ unions, and student councils in order to come up with effective solutions.
“Regulations state that students must place their mobile phones in a box upon entering the classroom,” he said.
“But we have been told that some teachers also use their phones during teaching hours. This is unacceptable.”
He also linked the issue with cyber-bullying and online threats between schoolchildren.
“There is also movement of pornographic material, and radiation from such devices could pose risks to children’s health, especially under the age of 12,” he said.
“The goal is not to ban mobile phones, but to teach children that it can be a helpful tool when used properly.”
Louis said mobile phones could not be banned completely from schools as they were seen as a social necessity. But efforts were being made to educate students on their proper use at school, he told the Cyprus Mail.
“It is not just the students, but society at large, that are addicted to the use of mobile phones and it is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Louis said.
He added that the ministry was considering the installation of lockers inside classrooms so that students could place their phones there during classes.
He also said that in cooperation with CyTA the ministry was also discussing the possibility of placing phone booths in schools. That way students would not feel the need to carry their mobiles with them and instead use the booths in case they needed to contact their parents.
Teachers at state and private schools told the Cyprus Mail that mobile phones could be a problem in the classroom but it was up to the school to get students to understand why they should not be used,
A public school teacher told the Cyrus Mail that it was a huge problem as students text each other during class, take photos of themselves, connect to their Facebook accounts, even cheat on tests.
“We had a case when students filmed a colleague during class and uploaded the video on a social media forum; that is violation of privacy” she said.
“We have a box where students are required to place their phones when they enter the classroom and they get it back during breaks, but some may say that they didn’t bring it to school or that it is turned off,” she said.
She added that when schools are strict on the enforcement of rules concerning the use of mobile phones, such incidences diminish. She also said that in the case where a mobile phone is been confiscated in class, the student is referred to the principal where he or she notifies the parents.
The head of GC School of Careers, Despo Pampori, said that the school is strict when it comes to rules and that students are asked to keep their mobile phones in their bags during class.
“If a mobile is heard ringing in class, we have our own internal rules; but we do not have any cases of disrespect,” Pampori said.
Emma Nathan, not her real name, who used to teach at a private school at key stage three (KS3) level, said that the school had a very strong policy of no mobile use or other digital media in the classroom and it was upheld especially by the form tutors.
“As a teacher I never had a problem with that; if you can explain to the students why this rule is important and they understand why, you don’t have any problems,” Nathan said.
She added that instead of telling the students what not to do, which would urge them to go ahead and do it, if they are called to answer why they think they shouldn’t do this they understand why.