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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Exam fuss hides a genuine travesty

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades

ALL HELL broke loose after a public parasite at the education ministry posted the exam questions for teaching job applicants 45 to 60 minutes before the exam was due to start last Monday, probably because it was his/her/its clocking-off time and he/she/it could not be bothered to wait around.

The hysterical reaction to this minor incident of parasitic incompetence really defied comprehension. I know that a total lack of perspective is one of our most endearing national characteristics but why was such a big deal made out of a small bureaucratic cock-up of no real consequence? It is not as if we are unaccustomed to this type of sloppiness.

New questions will be drafted and another date set for the exams. End of story. No paedophile ring was uncovered at our schools, nobody was hurt, nobody stole from the taxpayer, nobody was bringing back the Annan plan, nobody recognised the pseudo-state, nobody downgraded the Republic and there were no indications it was a conspiracy by the Foreign Office, Nato or the CIA.

Acting government spokesman Victor Pap, who developed a talent for fanning hysteria from his days as a Mega news presenter, did not rule out the possibility of ‘sabotage’, declaring with a straight face that “the government will not tolerate sabotage by anyone of one of the biggest reforms in our country.”

Raging politicians, teaching union bosses, hacks, student unionists and public do-gooders all jumped on the hysteria bandwagon and showed no restraint in expressing their moral indignation about this trivial cock-up that was the only news story for two whole days.


FOR THOSE not keeping up with the earth-shattering news of the week, the exams were for the recruitment of teachers at state schools. From next September, 50 per cent of the teachers appointed at state schools will be hired on a meritocratic basis, through exams, and the other 50 per cent indiscriminately from a waiting list.

The government is very proud of introducing some meritocratic teaching appointments and met with great opposition from parties and unions before getting a watered-down version of the reform approved. As a compromise it had to keep the colossally idiotic waiting list appointment system going for another 10 years.

The waiting list is the stupidest appointment system in world history, designed by pea-brained politicians and unionists to prevent only Dickheads being appointed teachers at state schools. The waiting list allowed graduates from all parties to be appointed once their turn on the list came, regardless of abilities. No amount of laziness, disinterest, ignorance, low intelligence, inadequacy or hopelessness could disqualify a graduate from being sent into a classroom to teach. They were not even tested if they could teach.

The concept was that if you had a degree and were prepared to wait your turn, you became a teacher. In the process, we took the idea of equal opportunities to its logical extreme – even if you were incapable of teaching, had no interest in your subject, no communication skills and no brains you were hired. To hell with the kids who suffered the consequences.


FOR DECADES, the state was hiring teachers the way labourers are hired for cash-in-hand day jobs – no questions asked. The only difference is that if the labourer did not do his work properly he was not hired the next day. Teachers, in contrast, would be given a permanent post after two years without anyone ever checking whether they could do the job. Nobody was ever found inadequate after two years by the ministry.

Is there any business in the world using such an insane recruitment policy for graduates –hiring them without even seeing them? If there were, it would not be in business for very long. Only Kyproulla’s education ministry hires anyone with a degree as a teacher, no questions asked. It is the main reason public education standards are so low and Cypriot kids invariably end up at the bottom when taking part in international tests.

The big irony is that the politicians and unionists ranting and raving about the exam cock-up all last week and complaining that the exam system had been compromised and should be scrapped are the champions of the waiting list system. They support the insane system that lets every moron with a degree loose in a classroom and believe they have the right to dismiss a rational system that would introduce meritocracy because a small glitch in the exams made them ‘unfair’.

With such a low capacity for rational thought, I would not be surprised if they themselves were taught by one of the inadequates who became teachers thanks to the much fairer waiting list system.


APART from the teaching unions, the most fervent opponents of new recruitment system were the reactionary commies of Akel, which fear the changes would deal a big blow to the values of mediocrity it had imposed on society and eventually end the sacred policy of equal opportunities to the incompetent and lazy.

For the commies the primary role of state schools is the employment of graduates, who would not get a decent job outside the state sector. If they are not very good at their job, so much the better, because poorly educated, uncritical grown-ups are more likely to become Akel voters. This is why the party never complains about declining public education standards.

Needless to say, the head of the Akel education office, Christos Christofides could not suppress his anger over the exam debacle.

“We await convincing and serious answers from those in charge. Mainly, though, we await, at present, the assuming of the huge and blatant political responsibilities for this unprecedented incident against thousands of young people.”

Maybe one day he will demand that responsibility is taken for the low standard of education provided to hundreds of thousands of children over the decades thanks to an undiscriminating recruitment system that ensured hundreds of crap teachers were put in classrooms.


AUDITOR-GENERAL Odysseas Michaelides had to find a way of muscling into such a high-profile news story. He could not investigate the publication of the exam questions because the education minister Costas Kadis had already appointed someone to carry out the so-called investigation but he still found something related to investigate.

After the cabinet decided to allocate €40,000 as compensation for teaching applicants who had come from abroad for the aborted exams and will have to return this week, Odysseas decided to investigate whether the expenditure was lawful or a squandering of public money. The guy is fast becoming a type of comic super-hero investigator. You half expect him to appear in a cape and red leggings for work as he carries out investigations into the bad guys.

In the case of the Pera Pedi land sale investigation, he undertook at the request of Prez Nik, he would be investigating a good guy, who did not sell his ditch, but never mind. He will soon be given another official title – investigator-general.


ANOTHER investigation, the findings of which were posted on the super-hero’s website, revealed that the former chairman of the broadcasting authority, when he left his post took with him a service iPad and mobile phone, which he was given in 2014. The total cost was just over a thousand euros and Odysseas turned down the ex-chairman’s offer pay for them, insisting on their return. What the state would do with a used iPad and mobile phone only the investigator-general can tell us. Someone will probably nick them and the super-hero would be called on to investigate.


SANTA NICLAUS has continued giving out gifts this past week. He even put €25 million in the National Solidarity Fund to be used, according to Harris Georgiades, who must have developed an ulcer announcing his boss’ money-wasting schemes, for the ‘partial alleviation’ of the effects of the 2013 banking crisis.

In other words, a few crumbs will be given to the haircut victims so that Santa is not accused of not keeping his promises. More will be paid into the Fund in the second half of next year a rather glum Harris said, while adding that this was not a compensation scheme (if it were the government would be accepting liability for the haircut) but a scheme to “safeguard social cohesion”.

€25 million is unlikely to prove very cohesive nor will it even fractionally alleviate the effects of losses totalling €9.5 billion. One thing is certain – it will not stop bank bondholders crying and moaning.


SHOWING that he thoroughly deserves the Santa Niclaus title, the prez will also give €20 million in Christmas bonuses to 60,000 people on low pensions and state welfare recipients. Announcing the plan, labour minister Zeta Emilianidou assured that the bonuses were nothing new – they had been given in past years – and should not be viewed as electioneering.

It will though because there are a lot of Scrooges unwilling to accept that the state has a responsibility to spread a little Christmas cheer. What was the excuse for reintroducing the payment of an annual allowance to mothers with four or more adult children? This was one the village idiot’s money-wasting schemes, which Emilianidou justified by using Tofspeak. It was “in recognition of the importance the state ought to give to mothers with many children”.

Finally, Santa also announced writing off €19.5 million owed in taxes by football clubs. He originally took the credit for this generosity, but seeing the hostile response the next day, the government said the decision was taken by the Papadopoulos government, many years ago. It just took the decision to remove the bad debts from the books.

None of the other candidates protested about this decision as football clubs represent a lot of votes, but the super-hero has vetoed it saying the government had no authority to do such a thing. I think an investigation is in order.


AN ECSTATIC Phil announced a “strategic role for Cyprus” on its front page on Thursday. The paper has always yearned a strategic role that would make Kyproulla a force to be reckoned with and now it appears its dream is coming true.

Apparently “three important countries of the EU with common interests in the broader area of the eastern Mediterranean, desire the strategic utilisation of Cyprus. France Italy and Germany are displaying intense interest in Cyprus’ two military bases in Zygi and Paphos.” This week French experts will arrive here to check the Zygi naval base and Paphos air base, the paper reported. The objective “is for the Zygi naval base to be upgraded so that submarines could be stationed”.

A day earlier the government decided to participate in Pesco (Permanent Structured Cooperation), a treaty based framework to deepen defence cooperation among EU member states. This is all very well and it would be great to have a strategic role, even an imaginary one,but has the government asked Mother Russia’s permission to allow the French to use our military bases? If Moscow vetoes the move, whose side will Phil take?

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