Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou on Wednesday called on Poed union to stop being selfish and instead listen to reason, so as not to strip 8,000 children of free education as the age for kindergartens changes.

The contentious issue has caused Poed to announce it will demonstrate outside the presidential palace on the November 23, as a mark of protest.

The ministry wants to expand compulsory pre-primary education to begin at the age of four, instead of the current four years and eight months. The matter is currently being discussed in parliament, however Poed has put its foot down saying it does not agree with the approach the ministry is taking. The union called on the president to intervene.

Nonetheless, Prodromou said if the union’s “backward approach” were to be adopted, 8,000 children would be barred from accessing free education.

“More children will have to go to private schools because they will have no other choice but to pay,” he said.

The ‘Cyprus Tomorrow’ plan unveiled by the government provides for free pre-primary schools. Not changing the age to increase access to more children will mean some 8,000-8,500 parents will have no other choice but to turn to private tuition.

The union argues in favour of constructing more buildings to house all the extra children, however this was rebutted by the minister who said this would mean children would have to wait 10 to 20 years to have free schooling.

“It is hard to communicate when the state has the benefit of children and their families in mind, and unions’ only criteria is having more government appointments. Sometimes, we should really think about families and taxpayers,” Prodromou said.