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Hey teacher, leave those kids alone

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5 mins read

I have been contemplating why the Education Ministry had kept its reaction to the alleged classroom pervert molesting his students on the undercooked side.

It also seemed to avoid a public backlash or media debate on how such predators can stalk our school corridors undetected.

That there are sexual predators that may be disguised as teachers should be taken as a given by the education system, it cannot assume there is no need for preventive action.

For 13 girls to come forward to complain they were sexually harassed during lesson time suggests this was not a one-off incident that can be brushed off as a misunderstanding.

There appeared to be no concern about how teachers are vetted for their suitability around children or what checks are in place to track or prevent such behaviour.

Judging by its response to the shocking allegation at a Limassol school, the Education Ministry has no disciplinary protocols in place to deal with such disturbing cases.

Although the teacher was remanded in custody, he was not suspended by the ministry, showing it has a questionable tolerance policy in such matters.

Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but this involves underage children, and more sensitivity and decisiveness must be shown.

Nobody wants a sex pest near their kids. This is not about a rush to judgement but about having procedures in place.

Another area of worry is that the victims of the inappropriate behaviour from a male teacher did not feel confident enough to tell a staff member at the school.

One girl came forward after confiding in a family friend.

Sexual abuse is a hidden menace that preys on the weak, young and vulnerable, and we should be aware of its pervasiveness as a society.

Cyprus can not feel safe from such phenomena, and the authorities should be more aware or proactive to prevent sexual harassment in the workspace or places of learning.

Such conduct doesn’t suddenly afflict someone; it is embedded, waiting for the opportunity to manifest itself.

And in the case of the Limassol school, it is unlikely the teacher in question didn’t display certain suspect behavioural traits in the past.

Schools are the best places for bad teachers to hide because instead of getting called out or punished for their misdeeds, they are passed on to another unsuspecting school.

The Education Ministry needs to take a hard look at how it evaluates teachers to ensure the highest standards of learning are maintained.

Bad teachers come in many guises, be they sexist, racist or just plain incompetent to do the job.

We endeavour to inspire excellence among our children but are indifferent to ensuring that teachers deliver the best possible outcomes.

Granted, some schools do better than others, although the education system is hardly a beacon of light and diversity to the rest of the world.

Performance

We have no idea which schools are failing or how badly because individual school performance is not publicised.

There are international tests where Cyprus would prefer to look away from its poor scorecard.

Nevertheless, schools excel because they have a conducive learning environment where teachers are engaged and eager to inspire.

Without good teachers, a school can’t thrive or achieve high standards.

A school that doesn’t care will produce students who are not bothered in a system that lacks proper public scrutiny.

Cyprus does invest in education but gets poor outcomes; nobody appears to question why that is or wants to do anything about it.

What we are teaching our kids also needs to be reviewed and reformed.

Are we preparing our children for an evolving society that is becoming more diverse in its social mores, climate-sensitive and requires a new skill set for digital transformation?

Not only is the government ill-equipped to combat the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation in society it has no mechanisms to keep children safe at school or in public activity.

Underestimating the problem or ignoring the signs is not a policy but a capitulation.

Trusting that the government knows best is something that Cypriots no longer believe in or have any time for.

Not even the Twitter-destroying billionaire maverick Elon Musk would be foolhardy enough to turn this ship around.

No, we like leaders who do the exact opposite.