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Primary school teachers blame minister for spat

Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris at the University of Dorbonne on Saturday

Primary education teachers blamed the minister on Saturday for a bitter public spat that broke out between them and him after the death of a 10-year-old boy who suffered a head injury while playing basketball at school in Larnaca and later died.

In a written statement, their union Poed, said Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris was the instigator of the trouble.

“From the first moment he handled the tragic event completely wrongly, without observing procedures, acted in haste as judge and executioner,” the union said.

Teachers were angered after Hambiaouris ordered a disciplinary probe against a teacher in connection with the death of Stavros Giorgallis some two weeks ago.

After hitting his head at school, the boy was taken to Larnaca hospital by his mother but doctors there apparently missed the injury and discharged him.

He was rushed back in critical condition and died later after he was transferred to Nicosia. Two doctors have since been charged over the death, prompting the reaction of their union.

The situation on the school front worsened after Hambiaouris asked police to remove union members who wanted to be present while teachers were interviewed. It was also reported that the teacher in question had priors and had been transferred four times in the last six years.

In the meantime, the minister also said there were active teachers with psychological problems.

Poed has requested a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades to present its side of the events. It denied attempting to interfere with the probe and demanded the minister withdraw his inflammatory comments and restore the bridges of communication with the teachers.

Amid the fracas, the president himself said he would not allow Cyprus to become a union fiefdom, sparking renewed indignation from doctors and teachers alike.

Poed said it was saddened and displeased over the statement but blamed it on “the incomplete and inadequate” information conveyed to him by his minister.

The union added that it was still prepared to discuss health and safety in schools with the aim of resolving any issues before the start of the new year in September.

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