A bill set to be voted on in parliament later on Friday would finally allow a group of national guardsmen to defer their service and attend British universities.
The bill appears to be in disarray however, with some saying the vote could be delayed until next Friday. It covers the budget required to meet the costs of the national guardsmens’ deferral by hiring professional soldiers (Syop).
“If parliament does not approve the budget to hire contracted soldiers (Syop), then they [prospective students] will not go,” a defence ministry official told the Cyprus Mail.
There has been controversy over the move, with parents and their children distraught over their uncertain future.
“The politicians are playing roulette with the boys’ future,” one parent told the Cyprus Mail.
On September 3, Cabinet decided that soldiers who had received confirmation from a UK university of their acceptance could defer their service.
But critics say the taxpayer is footing the bill for a privileged few and is discriminatory in nature – “why should those studying in Britain receive preferential treatment?” they ask.
In turn, parents say that their boys serving the country are already being discriminated against as girls will enjoy this academic year’s cheaper fees – a decision announced earlier in the summer will see UK universities upping fees for European students as of September 2021.
They also point out that girls are not conscripted while women are hired into the Syop, saying it is a great irony.
In an indication of the ensuing confusion, there is still no agreed number of professional soldiers which need to be hired, how much it will cost and how many national guardsmen may leave.
The figure bandied about ranges from €667,000 a year to €3.7 million and anywhere between 80 and 300 soldiers deferring their service, with perhaps 200 professionals being hired.
The education and foreign ministries of Cyprus initially attempted to haggle a deal with the British government that would allow the conscripts to pay the lower fees when starting in September 2021 but ultimately failed.