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Cyprus

Primary teachers in one hour walkout

Primary school children

State primary school teachers’ union Poed on Tuesday urged parents to support their one-hour work stoppage on Wednesday and criticised the education ministry for misinforming the public as to what goes on in schools.

The union will hold a warning strike on Wednesday from noon until 1.05pm over school understaffing and the government’s decision to use substitute teachers to fill permanent posts.

Poed head Phylios Phylaktou said that the strike was a “reaction to the situation the late staffing of schools presents, and the recent arrangements for the appointment of contract teachers on 10-month contracts to address permanent needs”.

Less than two weeks after schools opened, he said, there is general disarray resulting from the delay in staffing, and other problems that negatively affect school operations and education.

He added that the union felt it had to act before it saw the around 700 teachers who work on contacts at all educational levels “be appointed as reserve teachers with 10-month contracts”.

Phylaktou said the union demands the immediate correction of an employment status that was also observed the last school year and which they were told it would not be repeated.

“But it is being repeated and it is worse. What will happen next?” Phylaktou said.

Poed, Phylaktou said, decided to ask President Anastasiades to intervene so that all empty posts in the primary, pre-primary and special education sector, 147 in total, are filled with teachers on annual temporary contracts.

Education Minister Costas Kadis had said last week that from the 228 teachers who will be hired to help meet staffing shortages or absences in primary and secondary education, 125 will be substitute teachers, while 103 will be given one-year contracts.

“We will not in any way back the education ministry which for its own reasons either wants to beautify the situation, or to mislead the public about the current situation in schools and perhaps to disorient and rescue a tarnished image that we have seen recently from many other problems,” Phylaktou said.

The union’s board will reconvene on September 27, he said, to decide whether to escalate measures.

In an announcement the education ministry expressed its sorrow for the work stoppage which it called “incomprehensible” and that it “inexcusably” impacts negatively students and teachers.

The ministry has repeatedly given reassurances, the announcement said, that the employment status of some of the teachers was the result of a cabinet decision which took into consideration this year’s particularities and that it will not be a permanent practice. It also called on Poed to reconsider and continue the dialogue.

Kadis had said that the cabinet commissioned a study on the streamlining of the employment of teachers both in primary and secondary education and that within the year there might be changes based on the results of this study. Due to this, Kadis said, it was deemed that it was best not to give one-year contracts to all teachers who will be called to fill in empty posts as they might not be needed for the whole year.

The ministry said even though the new school year began with minor problems, this was within normal levels, while most have been already addressed.

Meanwhile, state kindergarten teachers announced they would join their primary education colleagues on Wednesday as a show of solidarity.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, head of state kindergartens teachers’ association Stavroula Damala said that this was a common struggle.

It is our obligation to support Poed, she said, as most kindergartens share facilities with primary schools. State kindergartens too face understaffing problems, she added.

Parents however do not share the teachers’ concerns and called on Poed to reconsider.

The head of the island’s primary parents’ association Maria Savva said the group has decided to call on Poed to recall the work stoppage. This year, she said, schools are better staffed than in previous years.

If Poed has additional information that justifies their decision for work stoppage, they should make it public, “to convince us parents and we will be the first to react if there truly is a problem”.

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