Primary school and kindergarten teachers held a one-hour work stoppage on Monday morning, with union Poed giving authorities 15 days to work out satisfactory solutions to problems faced due to ongoing pandemic measures.

A meeting was held on Sunday, to evaluate what had been done by the relevant authorities in the last 15 days during which the union reached the conclusion that the response to the three main concerns it brought up on January 20 had not been good enough, vice-president of Poed Apostolos Skouroupatis told the Cyprus News Agency.

“We are unsatisfied by what has been done, they could and can do more,” he said, adding “what concerns us is ensuring proper safety measures in our schools so that students, teachers and staff are protected.”

He said the first requirement is improvement in school staffing to cover teacher absences, with the need for prompt, full-time replacement staff. “When schools are understaffed safety is also compromised,” he said.

The second concern is proper implementation of safety measures in kindergartens and special schools. He stressed that in kindergartens, unlike in primary and secondary schools no safety measures are in place, not even rapid testing.

Thirdly, he said, the installation of ventilation systems has not yet started. “We are not asking for them to have been installed yesterday,” he said, “but to be given a timetable for the setting up of classrooms so that when new pandemic waves and infections come, schools can be prepared to continue in-person,” he said. He added that included in this set-up should be provision for smaller class sizes.

In a statement issued Sunday, Poed said that the organisation does not “nullify” what has been done so far but reiterates that the situation remains extremely difficult.

“We expect our suggestions and appeals to be heard immediately by the ministry mainly for the benefit of the children but also for the smooth and orderly operation of schools.”

The Pancyprian Confederation of School Parents’ Associations expressed strong dissatisfaction over the decision to proceed with the work stoppage, held from 7:30 to 8:25am.

“With particular regret, it is noted once again, that the lack of communication and dialogue between the ministry of education and Poed leads to the discomfiting of thousands of students and parents. We recognise the democratic right of every citizen and employee to work stoppage BUT we believe this is not an appropriate time to do so, as it creates further disruption to already beleaguered school units,” it said.

The statement added that although organised parents support dialogue, and some of the educators’ demands echo the parents’ concerns, precious learning time is being lost and there were other ways to achieve results than “instrumentalising” the children.

On Friday the ministry of education said it was “saddened and troubled” by the decision of Poed to carry out the work stoppage, claiming that the reasons given for it “did not correspond to reality.”

But head of the third Latsia Primary School Pantelis Louka said the work stoppage concerned “the management of the pandemic by the ministry of education, from the beginning until today”.

He added that the ministry had not treated teachers as equal partners nor given them their due for their daily efforts and remarkable dedication, patience and perseverance under trying conditions. The principal spoke about continual and contradictory circulars, sent in the evening and requiring implementation the next morning, with no regard as to whether schools had the capacity to do so.

He said teachers are obliged to teach with open windows on freezing days because classroom ventilation is non-existent. He further noted that it is impossible to have 25 pupils in a classroom and keep social distancing according to protocols.