Cyprus Mail

Parents of disabled children want more school chaperones

Parents have complained that there are not enough chaperones for disabled kids

Around 50 parents have filed complaints with the children’s rights commissioner over the last few days over the non-appointment of school chaperones for their disabled children, it emerged on Wednesday.

The dispute continued on Wednesday at the House education committee meeting as parents cited problems over the chaperone assignment procedure, and the education ministry insisted that over the past five years they have hired more and more people for the job.

Some parents of disabled children have been expressing their discontent the past few weeks over their children not being assigned school chaperones. Chaperons are hired at the beginning of each school year to assist children with disabilities in school. They help them move about, eat, go to the toilet, and generally watch over them.

A representative of the children’s rights commissioner told MPs that the office had received around 50 complaints recently from parents of disabled children over the non-appointment of chaperons for their children.

Parents complained that, in many cases, the commissioner’s representative said the chaperone appointing committee does not take into consideration their or their child’s preferences as to candidates for the job. Even when they object to a decision, parents said, it has no impact as their single vote doesn’t stand a chance against the four votes of the school district members who also have a say in the hiring procedure. The seven-member committee also includes of two education ministry officials.

In some cases, the representative said, parents object to the hiring of an individual as a chaperone for their child and this creates tension among everyone involved, affecting the child negatively. In other cases, parents demand the hiring of a certain person as a chaperone, setting their own criteria which are not in line with the regulations. Sometimes they demand the removal of a chaperone because they do not feel he or she is experienced enough.

Some parents also complained that their child has to share a chaperone with other children.

The education ministry representative told MPs that the number of school chaperons has been gradually increasing over the last five years. Of the 622 chaperones employed in 2013 – 461 in primary and 161 in high schools – the number has risen to almost 800 in 2017 with 566 in primary and 227 in high schools. These chaperons serve in total 1,429 children, while 55 more people will be hired in 2018.

The head of the House committee, Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis, urged the commissioner’s office and the education ministry to cooperate to look into each of these 50 reported cases.

Akel MP Andreas Kafkalias stressed that the minimum criterion to hire a chaperone is a high school diploma, while there is no essential training of the people taking up these posts.

MPs said that they would continue discussion on the issue in future meetings.

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