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Cyprus Education

Two blind children remain at home in row over teaching aides

feature nick at present phaneromeni school educates 120 gymasium and primary school pupils

Citing lack of progress in the case of two blind children who continue not to attend school, the Pancyprian Organisation for the Blind said on Friday that it would ask independent state officials to review the suitability of personnel assigned to accompany children with disabilities in class.

The siblings remain at home over a dispute between their parents and the Latsia school board over the two teachers’ aides assigned to the 14-year-old girl and a boy, 11, with the parents pressing for their children to have the same aides as last year.

The NGO said that despite public assurances that the issue would be resolved, officials were instead trying to browbeat the family into accepting aides with whom they cannot communicate, just because a decision had already been taken.

It noted that even though a compromise solution had been put forward, the school board had instead gone ahead and appointed the two aides that had been pre-selected for the position, despite the parents’ objections.

This disregards the reports of the child protection commissioner and the ombudswoman, does not meet the real educational needs of the children, excludes them from the education system and reinforces the parents’ distrust that the decision aims to serve the interests of third parties and not the specialised needs of the children, it said.

The NGO went further, saying that those deciding on aides do not have the required knowledge and depend to a large extent on maintaining good relations with the local community.

“That is why they decided behind closed doors to adopt procedures with the only criterion to safeguard the trade union rights and permanent jobs of schools aides, irrespective of whether they are suitable or not and without taking into consideration the interests of children with disability,” it said.

The NGO added that it was filing a complaint to independent state officers asking they intervene to overhaul the school aides’ programme.

Given reports that other children with disabilities faced problems with their aides, others have to share, and others have not yet been assigned one, the organisation said it would be joining forces with associations of parents with disabilities to step up protests to press the state to give substantial support.

 

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