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Cyprus

Parents threaten to keep kids out of school

With the start of the school year only a couple of days away parents are threatening to keep their kids home from school over disagreements with the education ministry about literacy problems.

Under an agreement between the parents and the education ministry extra literacy lessons for children in high school were to be moved from mornings to the afternoon to avoid taking children out of their normal classrooms and thereby stigmatising them.

Though the ministry agreed to make this change on August 26, after discussions with teachers un-ion OELMEK on August 31 they backtracked and announced lessons for some pupils would be in the morning and for others in the afternoon.

The secondary parents’ association does not agree with this, as they say, hurried decision. They propose that for this year, the programme should run as it is to allow time for making the right de-cision.

“We are not against morning or afternoon, we want this to work properly,” head of the association Petros Koulermos said on Tuesday, “we want a new dialogue with the parents, teachers and the ministry to find the best and most practical solution without time pressures. In the meantime, it should be the same for all children.”

On Friday, the day school starts, the association will inform the parents and other stakeholders of the situation at a press conference.

“After that, we will give the ministry a couple of weeks to respond and then we will convene again,” secretary of the association Andri Chrysostomou Andreou said. “We will see what happens when the schools open. If nothing changes we don’t exclude closing the schools.

“We had an agreement with the ministry to try to have the lessons in the afternoon on August 26 but then OELMEK came and everything was changed suddenly. It is ridiculous to do this just before the schools are about to open.”

The problem doesn’t only concern the timetable but also the content. “The literacy programme hasn’t helped the kids for years,” Andreou said, “it worked 20 years ago when it started but not now.” The parents’ association says that teachers who are “not so good” have been used to teach the programme instead of teaching a class. “Now they say they will try hard and put their best teachers but why leave it to fail for so long?” Andreou added.

While all these are matters which need to be tackled, they stem from a bigger issue. “What worries us is that the ministry agrees to changes and then they get blackmailed by OELMEK and change their decisions,” the association’s secretary said. “There has also been a promise to evaluate teachers which was made two years ago, but so far nothing has happened. The idea just disap-peared. Our biggest problem is that the minister is not doing what he says.”

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