WE HAD warned that the Education ministry was making a big mistake in recognising the ridiculous secondary school students’ organisation PSEM, engaging in dialogue with it. Even if the ministry ignored the demands of the teenagers, by meeting them it was, in theory, accepting that they should have a say in educational matters.
This mistake was highlighted on Wednesday when PSEM held a demonstration outside the ministry building to push its members’ demands, by hurling rocks and lemons. They were demanding free bus travel, an increase in places at state universities and assurances that all places at universities would be filled (regardless of candidates not being up to standard).
The kids had held their demonstration, because one of their demands – exempting poor students from paying a fee to sit for university entrance exams – had been satisfied by the education ministry and they therefore concluded that more ‘support measures’ for students could be achieved.
Education minister Costas Kadis was at pains to explain that the decision for the exemption would have been taken anyway and was not the result of the student protests.
We may believe him but the teenagers would not, especially after he declared that the ministry was always open to dialogue with the students, while the head of secondary education at the ministry foolishly stated, after the demonstration, that some of the students’ demands were in the process of being looked into. Is this not encouragement for the kids to believe they have a legitimate right to a say and that with unsocial behaviour they will get what they want?
But the fact is that teenagers should not have a say in how the education system should be run, nor should their views be heard by the government because they have decided to unionise themselves and act like rowdy militants. Taking 14- and 15-year-old so-called unionists seriously is not a sign of advanced democracy, but of an immature society with no sense of measure. Kids should be treated as kids.
If in Cyprus we think that giving kids a say in educational matters, is a sign of democracy, then we should also appoint teenagers to the boards of universities and semi-governmental organisations. Why are we excluding them from other areas of public life and listening to their views only on education?
If their views on education are worth listening to, why does Haris Georgiades not engage in a dialogue with them about how the economy should be run; they could also help the Health minister with ideas on how to implement the national health scheme. Maybe, we should allow anyone over the age of 13 to stand for election as well.
It would not be any sillier than having a dialogue with 13-year-olds about the admissions policy at state universities.