Cyprus Mail

‘Regressive legislation’ barring private preschool attendance has no place in democratic state, association says (updated)

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Parents should have every right to choose to send their children to a private nursery or kindergarten if they wish, and the move from MPs to prevent this by the contentious law on preschool education raises more questions than answers, the Cyprus private preschools association (Sipek) said on Tuesday.

“In no democratic state and at no level of education are there laws prohibiting all or even some children from attending private schools,” Sikep stated. It added the law has caused a great deal of confusion and concern to thousands of parents whose children attend private schools, kindergartens and infant care centres.

The announcement comes at the heels of Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou calling the law “unconstitutional and virtually impracticable”. A ban on private schools offering preschool education should not be put into effect, he said, noting there is a risk, that children will not be able to find a place in a public preschool.

Sipek hailed the fact that President Nicos Anastasiades did not sign the law and referred it back to parliament, though deputies refused to make any amendments. The president now has the option to send it to the Supreme Court.

The association added it was worth wondering why some MPs voted for such regressive legislation.

Private nurseries, childcare centres and kindergartens have contributed to society since the difficult post-invasion year of 1976, the Sipek announcement continued, prior to which no pre-school education of any sort existed in the country.

Noting some advantages of private institutions over public ones, Sipek mentioned extended opening hours, especially during holidays. Additionally, in order to support mothers returning to work, services such as feeding, transportation, after-school care and extra-curricular classes, such as English learning activities, P.E., music and dance, speech therapy and a host of other programmes are offered, Sipek pointed out.

Moreover, the establishment and operation of private nurseries and kindergartens is governed by a particularly strict and demanding regulatory framework from which public kindergartens are exempted, Sipek added.

The possible application of the “completely unconstitutional” law, the association said, would create serious practical problems for parents who are unable to secure a place for their children in public kindergartens, for those who, due to work, need immediate preschool care and extended service hours, and to non-Greek-speakers who wish for their child to attend preschool in another language.

Millions of taxpayer euros would go into this wrongheaded decision, Sipek said, which the state could instead allocate towards support of vulnerable groups as well as for betterment of existing services.

Any implementation of the legislation would also mean the closure of classes which the aforementioned children attend, and the dismissal of the staff currently employed, who would end up redundant.

Sipek called on MPs to rise to the occasion and invited parents to proceed as normal to enrol their children in the private kindergartens they attend, or have chosen to attend, for the 2023-2024 school year.

Also weighing in on the matter, the Federation of Employers and Industrialists (Oev) said that the deprivation of the parents’ rights to choose a private nursery or preschool for their children is “unjustified, unfair and harmful.”

“In no modern and privileged state is the compulsory schooling of children only in public institutions, at any level of compulsory education, imposed by law,” Oev said.

They added that the private centres and kindergartens, through the high quality of the services offered, in extended opening hours and in some cases in foreign languages, strengthen the reconciliation of professional and family life, especially of mothers and contribute to the efforts to reverse the low birth rate.

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