Parents of primary school pupils said on Thursday they want a say in the ongoing dispute between the government and teachers over the education ministry’s efforts to streamline school budgets.
Teaching unions have threatened to strike when schools are due to reopen in September following a government decision to abolish exemptions from teaching hours for trade union activity and extra-curricular activity. The move also targets the standard practice of fewer hours in front of the classroom according to the number of years a teacher has worked.
Speaking after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, the parents’ association of primary education said they would like to take part in discussions with teachers’ unions following the latter’s threats of strike action.
Deputy government spokesman, Klelia Vasiliou, said the president had a very productive meeting with the parents “on our common goal, which is at the end of the day the good of our children”.
She said that the issue of containing expenditure on public education had been discussed extensively, and specifically how funds could be spent on other programmes of the education ministry.
“What has been reaffirmed today is the cabinet decision and especially of the president for the streamlining (of costs) that would lead to enhancing education and reinforcing the good work of teachers,” Vasiliou said.
She added that there were very good teachers in the system, “and it is those who must be strengthened so that they can strengthen our children.”
But she added that there were problems in schools which must be addressed.
“There are so many levels that need strengthening. The budget of the education ministry is being streamlined to reinforce this whole framework,” she said.
On the strike threat by the unions, Vasiliou said that following the president’s meeting with the parents’ delegation, she believed the situation would calm down “because it is something that our children do not need”.
“If we all have in mind, soberly, that our children’s good is above all everything, then we believe there will be no reason to discuss this issue in September.”
Chairman of the parents’ confederation, Morfakis Solomonides, said after the meeting that their aim is to enter into dialogue with teachers to avert any problems at the beginning of the next school year.
“The aim of the meeting was also to make the president commit that if there are cut backs in funds as part of the streamlining, the money (saved) will be given to programmes which we already discussed with the president and concern issues of health and safety in schools, of special education, delinquency and optional all-day schools,” he said.
He said that they also meet with the education minister to discuss student and teacher evaluation.
Solomonides said that they expected primary teachers’ union, Poed, to invite them to talks but thad had not happened yet.
“We do not want to get involved into the work dispute bit, nor do we want to discuss the exemptions or not for teachers. However, one (Poed) cannot call for dialogue, without entering into a dialogue with parents,” he said.
On the possibility of strikes in September, Solomonides said that his organisation would position themselves in due course. At the moment, the situation was very tense and “we do not want to add fuel to the fire.”