THE HOUSE education committee has proposed the scrapping of the January 30 school holiday honouring Three Hierarchs who were made saints by the Greek Orthodox Church for their contribution to Christian theology; this is also the day of Greek letters. The chairman of the committee Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis pointed out that schools should not be closed on a day marked to celebrate Greek letters and learning. They should be open and mark the day with educational activities to highlight its importance, the Disy deputy said.
It was a long overdue suggestion, even though we suspect deputies found the courage to make it only because Greece’s education ministry scrapped this absurd holiday a couple of years ago. The devout education minister Costas Kadis, was not opposed and neither was the Church (the Archbishop did not enlighten us with his view on the matter), but predictably the teaching unions had to voice their objection.
The head of the secondary teachers’ union Oelmek, Demetris Taliadoros complained that the House committee had not consulted his union about changing school regulations, as if decisions by the legislature or government required union approval. School holidays are obviously part of the regulations, but why does the union have to be consulted for a change of regulations? And why are teachers that have four-and-half months of paid holiday per year and finish their working day at lunch-time complaining about losing a school holiday? This is scandalously provocative behaviour, but unions get away with it because nobody dares to challenge them.
If Kadis was not such a weak minister he would have openly said that the ministry was fully in support of the abolition of the holiday instead of grudgingly saying he did not object to it. He would also have said that teachers worked fewer days than any other workers and should be ashamed to complain about losing a day’s holiday. And the same applies to committee chairman Hadjiyiannis who went silent once the Oelmek chief spoke.
Taliadoros, as part of his intimidating tactics, claimed that scrapping the Three Hierarchs holiday was part of a deliberate attempt to diminish the importance of Greek letters (as if the importance is safeguarded by a school holiday and not by good teaching), implying that this was an unpatriotic act. “On what criteria did the committee decide that this holiday is less important than other holidays,” he asked. He also defended the name-day of the Archbishop being school holiday (November 13) as this had been established during British colonial rule, conveniently ignoring that we have been an independent state for 56 years.
All school holidays to mark a saint’s name day should be abolished, because it is high time we entered the 21st century and secularised state education. Teachers would still work fewer days than any other worker in Cyprus if they gave up two or three holidays. But for this to happen we need a minister that is not at the beck and call of the teaching unions.