Party Politics Destroying English School - ESOBGA
The English School Old Boys and Girls Association (ESOBGA) is planning a protest against politically-motivated appointments to the school's board at 7pm on June 23rd at the Human Rights roundabout outside the English School in Nicosia, said the association.
Political parties are meddling in the running of the school and destroying its reputation for being a school of excellence that cultivated critical thinking and allowed freedom of expression, said a statement from ESOBGA.
The organisation points to a steady decline in student applications, students taking too many private lessons, demotivated teachers, and bad finances.
"We believe...that this is the outcome of party politics that have stepped into our School. Ever since party politics have been the driving force of appointing members of the Board of Management, the heritage of our founder Rev. Canon Newham “NON SIBI SED SCOLAE” (not for myself, but for my School) has ceased to exist," said ESOBGA.
After the protest on June 23rd, ESOBGA will send a representative to the Presidential Palace, the parliament's Education Committee, and all leaders of political parties.
Chairman of the English School management board Antonis Valanides said that he plans to meet with ESOBGA this afternoon to discuss the situation and denies that any decisions made by the school are politically motivated.
"The Board is appointed by the government and they act according to the rules of the school. They (ESOBGA) cannot point out any decision that we have taken that is related to any politics," he said in a telephone interview.
The financial situation of the school is not the best, he said, and measures are being taken to improve it - like early retirement for old teachers to hire younger teachers who are paid less than half the salary and work longer hours. The school has to pay 85-90 percent of its income to salaries, so this should help the situation, he said.
Valanides addressed the drop in the number of applicants, saying that because of the economic crisis, there are fewer parents who can afford the fees and fewer families who want to send their children to the UK after university fees rose from 1000 pounds sterling to between 8000-10,000 per year. Even though the number of applicants dropped by 25 percent this year, the quality of the students accepted to the English School is very high, he said.
According to Valanides, people are attacking the school's reputation because of a general reaction against the English School which started in 2004.
"That was when the then-president Tassos Papadopoulos decided to accept a class of Turkish Cypriots, since then there has been a general feeling that there is discrimination," he said.
But according to Valanides, the school's academic excellence has not changed, and nor has its culture.
"85 percent of our graduates go to the top 20 universities in England and our A-Level results compare favourably with the best schools in England, let alone private schools in Cyprus," he said.
His comments were rejected by ESOBGA spokeswoman Magda Nicholson, who said: "we find totally unacceptable the fact that the Board of Management of the English School is appointed on the basis of their merit to their political party. We feel that this says it all. They are loyal to their party and not to the proper decision making for the best interest of our School."
The English School is one of the oldest private schools on the island and has a history stretching back over one hundred years.