The House plenary on Friday unanimously but reluctantly approved the amendment of the 2016 finance law to allow the recruitment of 103 teachers.
This will increase the number of teachers from 11,967 to 12,070 in 2016.
The decision was made after the bill was declared urgent while the government came under fire for its practice to table important bills as urgent and pass them without serious debate.
“The government has become an institution which submits major bills at the last moment,” Akel general-secretary Andros Kyprianou said. This should finally be stopped; we found that we made too many mistakes because we vote for bills at the last minute. We shouldn’t be asked to vote on issues without looking at them regardless of the seriousness of the matter.”
Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos also objected to passing the bill with extreme urgency requesting a referral to the finance committee.
“We must send a signal to the government that important issues relating to budgets must be submitted on time,” he said.
Marinos Sizopoulos of Edek said the party would vote on the supplementary budget but added there should be a more rational distribution of educational time.
Another member of the opposition, Citizens Alliance MP Pavlos Mylonas talked about the coercive approach of the government and added he was in favour of postponement, noting that “two weeks will not cause any reversal in the government positions.”
However, Solidarity Movement’s Michalis Giorgallas said it must be considered what the problems will be if the bill is not passed on time and what it will mean for a smooth start of the school year.
Greens Giorgos Perdikis contributed to the debate by saying that even without the supplementary budget the educational needs of children are covered, adding that “there is no problem to slightly postpone its adoption for a few weeks.”
In response to the criticism the president of the ruling party, Disy’s Averof Neophytou noted that the House agreed to amend the constitution more easily than it approved the 103 teaching positions, something that should require much more time for discussion.
“We are in favour of discussing the bill for our children but we believe we will face fewer problems if we adopt the budget,” he said.
More than 41,700 secondary and technical students on Friday went back to school for the new academic year. Primary schools open on Monday.
In his message, Education Minister Costas Kadis said one of this year’s goals was for every student to improve his or her performance by utilising all the tools offered by their teachers and their schools. Another goal was to eliminate “every form of racism and intolerance, and to promote equality and respect for diversity and human dignity”.
“Our third goal is to further strengthen the relationship between education and culture, by encouraging our schools to develop cultural activities, in the context of the ‘Pafos 2017’ Cultural Capital of Europe,” Kadis said.
He also invited all teachers to find solutions in cooperation with his ministry so that education reforms are implemented effectively and address existing problems.