COVID19: Cyprus schools may stick with remote learning

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While the government has said it wants all students to return to class when schools reopen in September, some lessons may be taught remotely.

Research, Innovation, and Digital Policy Deputy Minister Kyriacos Kokkinos said that based on Cyprus’ current epidemiological situation, he expects the new school year to involve a mixed system of in class and at home learning.

On Monday, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said the government would seek to ensure classroom instruction as far as possible, though that would be directly linked to epidemiological data regarding the spread of coronavirus.

He said no final decisions has been made pending advice from the government’s team of experts.

In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, Kokkinos said that Cyprus should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, which would see students unable to go to school if cases are high.

“What we must have in place is a readiness for full remote education and no physical presence of pupils in classrooms. This is the toughest scenario, which although not the desirable one, is one we should be ready for.”

Kokkinos, while conceding a smooth launch of the new school year is not on the cards, he said that “If there are any small problems, we will resolve them on the way”.

He argued that preparations have been underway since the end of May, upgrading school infrastructure and readiness to handle remote education.

Asked to comment on obstacles raised by concerns over personal data issues, Kokkinos said there were two key questions: whether the teacher will be able to see the pupil at home “and the answer is no,” and whether the pupil would have access to the blackboard, their fellow pupils, and the teacher or just have an audio connection and not visual.

He said students will have access to the blackboard, while access to the teacher is also desirable.

Secondary education teachers’ unions OELMEK and OLTEK said that educators are waiting for the Education Ministry to take its final decisions on how and under what protocols students and teachers will return to the classroom.

Costas Hadjisavvas, OELMEK’s chairman, said: “As we have agreed with the Minister, we will be in constant communication and depending on the decisions taken at the Presidential Palace on the advice of the scientific team, we will certainly do what will be suggested to us.”

“Our duty as teachers is to, on the one hand, offer our students education and at the same time protect students, teachers and public health in every way possible.”

President Nicos Anastasiades along with Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou are expected to meet the government’s scientific advisers on Wednesday to discuss further measures on handling the resurgence of the virus with schools set to be one of the main topics.