The pandemic has been disastrous for schoolchildren, whose education has been continually disrupted since last spring. Schools closed for more than two months, public schools were completely unprepared for distance learning and when schools reopened children attended classes on alternate days. There was also the constant undermining of distance learning by teaching unions who argued for months that giving lessons via video was a violation of their personal data.

The last term was disrupted by different parents’ associations taking matters into their own hands and arbitrarily closing a school whenever some children tested positive for the coronavirus. Education ministry protocols were completely disregarded, parents deciding they knew best what was right for their children’s education. The new term began on Thursday with distance learning, which is set to continue for the next three weeks as the government is expected to include schools in the restrictions it will announce.

Needless to say, the secondary teachers’ unions, Oelmek, which has opposed every ministry attempt to minimise the disruption caused by the pandemic to public education is protesting again. This time teachers object to the ministry’s decision that wants them to deliver online classes from school rather than from home. This, the union of negativity, argued was a blatant case of discrimination, as teachers were the only public sector employees that were not allowed to work from home; all other public employees were ordered by the government to work (be on holiday in effect) from home.

Education minister, Prodromos Prodromos, refused bow to the union, which adopted a melodramatic stance, accusing the government of not considering the health of teachers worth protecting! How a teacher delivering a lesson online from an empty classroom would be putting his or her health at risk has not been explained; we suspect the teachers want to teach from home, because this will give them more free time and nobody would be able to monitor their lessons (it would be a violation of personal data!)

Apart from having to cope with the unrelenting negativity of teaching unions, the education ministry also has to deal with constant barrage of criticism from Akel, which on Wednesday came up with a catalogue of weaknesses regarding distance learning. The ministry’s poor planning and antiquated methods meant that “once more, the continuation of the education process is up to the determination, conscientiousness and love of our teachers,” said an Akel spokesman, without a hint of irony.

What is disgraceful is that even in these chaotic time for school children neither Akel nor Oelmek can bring themselves to take a constructive approach and help the government’s effort to minimize the effects caused to public education by the pandemic.


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