THE AUDACITY of Cyprus’ teaching unions knows no bounds. These unions have been calling the shots for so long that they have come to believe they have some divine right to impose their diktats on society, diktats that invariably put the interests of their members above everything else, including the education of our children.
Cowardly politicians and governments with an Akel mentality on unions were happy to satisfy all demands of teaching unions, less they lost a few votes. Now, they are fast realising that they cannot control the monster they created which is responsible for continuously falling public education standards.
Even the government’s decision to change the criminal appointment system, which indiscriminately offered teaching jobs to candidates on a waiting list, had to be watered down in order to satisfy the unions and get through parliament. From this school year, half the teaching posts would be filled by applicants that score the highest in exams, while the remainder will still go to graduates on the wretched waiting list. The 50-50 system will stay in place for another 10 years, because this was what the unions had demanded and they were supported by the majority of the political parties.
But even this was not satisfactory to the primary teachers’ union Poed, which has called a strike in protest. Half of Cyprus’ schools will be closed today and the other half next Thursday because of industrial action. Poed is demanding that the education ministry hires all the 350 supply teachers (the ministry says the number is 119) it had been employing as cover for 30 months or longer. They may have been inadequate teachers, but according to Poed, they had to be hired because they would face unemployment.
Education Minister Costas Kadis has told the union that most of the supply teachers would be hired during the ridiculous 10-year transitional period in which the indiscriminate hiring of inadequate teachers would continue. There is now a law in place governing the hiring of teachers, which cannot be ignored or violated as Poed is demanding. Strange as it may sound, unions also have to obey the law, which cannot be overturned by strikes.
Poed boss Filios Fylaktou, displaying his customary arrogance, accused the minister of undermining the teachers’ standing and belittling their work. “That is why for Poed and the education world, the education minister is an enemy of education and of the teachers,” he said yesterday, sounding like a spoiled kid that did not get its way. His reaction is understandable, given that Kadis for once had refused to bow to his demands.
Kadis is an enemy of education only because he has been pandering to the teaching unions – the real enemy of education – for far too long.