It was astonishing to hear that a gymnasium student who had been sexually abused by fellow students was still expected to go to the same school as his abusers, a month and half after the incident. The revelation was made by Dipa deputy Alecos Tryfonides, after a House education committee meeting that discussed bullying and delinquent behaviour at schools.

“A month and a half after this sad incident, and despite interventions, the victim remains at the same school as his abusers,” said Tryfonides. “He cannot go to classes, he cannot go to school, he cannot have a normal life because our procedures are being delayed.”

In short, because of the failure of the education system to deal with violent and abusive behaviour, the abuse victim was still being punished by having to go to the same school as his abusers, who should have been expelled. What sort of example is set, when boys that sexually harass and abuse a fellow student are not subject to drastic punishment? Has the idea of discipline been banished from public schools?

It is possible that the offenders were suspended from school for a few days, but school should also have a responsibility to protect the victim. And it is offering no protection by having the traumatised teenager encounter his assailants every day at school, if he is still going there. According to Tryfonides he cannot go to school, which would suggest our education system, under the circumstances, is punishing the abused rather than the abusers.

The excuse of the Education Minister, Athena Michaelidou, was that the structures did not exist for badly behaved pupils to be schooled separately. She said that soon there would be a proposal for an alternative programme which would allow pupils to come out of school, attend their lessons at a day centre at which they would be supported by specialists and then return. It was strange that she spoke about a proposal, when there is already legislation – since 2021 – providing for the creation of day centres. Nothing has been done, even though the responsibility belongs to the previous minister as much as Michaelidou.

Although it is not the legislature’s job to interfere in work of the executive, Education committee chairman Pavlos Mylonas was right to issue a threat to the government. He said that if the committee did not have the ministry’s proposal for the operation of centres for the protection of children by June, he would hold a news conference to report the executive and all those responsible to the police. Pressure must be applied on the education ministry, although there is no guarantee that a proposal submitted in June would lead to action in September.

Michaelidou may talk a good education system, but she needs to understand that action is also needed to achieve her lofty objectives.