"Spasmodic, shoddy and ineffective," was how Dinos Ellinas, the chairman of the Limassol primary schools parents' association, characterised Education Ministry efforts to deal with the problems faced by the district's 89 primary schools.
Speaking on Friday's last day of term, Ellinas said parents had had enough and would be taking ‘dynamic measures’ as soon as schools reopened after the summer holidays. He did not specify what form such measures would take.
Ellinas accused the ministry of taking advantage of parents' goodwill.
"The state has, unfortunately, with our consent, put its hand deep into our pockets. Our good intent and co-operation has always been a given, but it appears that this has been misunderstood and been taken advantage of," he charged.
Many primary schools in the Limassol area had not been upgraded since they were built 50 years ago, Ellinas said.
He listed inadequate facilities, an absence of events rooms, poor maintenance and lack of heating as the main problems faced by Limassol primary schools.
Intercollege has spent some £3.5 million on a state-of-the-art Nicosia home for a medical school, completed last October, and has also lined up the experts to staff it.
But the Education Ministry has yet to reply to an application for a licence that was submitted some three years ago. By law, the ministry has to reply to such applications within 75 days.
Intercollege has even started a pre-med programme, assuming its medical school would be ready to receive the first pre-med graduates this year. But now the first pre-med graduates, who received their diplomas yesterday, will have to finish their training abroad.
The college blames excessive government caution and bureaucracy for the no- go.
It points the finger at Constantinos Yialoukas, the director of Tertiary Education at the Education Ministry.
Yialoukas is described as a bureaucrat par excellence: "He bends the rules so there is no change in the status quo," Intercollege pre-med programme co-ordinator Dr Andreas Charalambous charges. Yialoukas denies this.
College Dean Nicos Peristianis adds that the government does not have the required "faith" in the private sector to establish "something as important as a medical school".
Peristianis and Charalambous are none too pleased with Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides either. They say he promised preliminary approval by last January and final approval as soon as labs were built. "Now he is going back on his promise and sending us to one of the corridors of his ministry which we don't seem to be able to get out of," Charalambous says, referring to Yialoukas' office.
Intercollege's medical school plans are backed by the Cyprus Medical Association and raise no objections from the state-run Cyprus University, which does not see Intercollege's English-language medical school as a threat to its plans for a Greek-language equivalent.
But despite all this, the government seems anything but ready to cut the red tape holding the private medical school back.
"We do not want to do things in a hurry," Yialoukas told The Sunday Mail. "If we want to establish a medical school of quality... the law demands that everything is perfect..."
Intercollege insist that its planning in setting up the medical school cannot be faulted.
"Our curriculum plan is so detailed that it even lists which cell slides will be studied under microscopes during which hour of which day of the week," Charalambous says.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail
The capital’s mayor, Lellos Demetriades, told The Sunday Mail that the level of pollution in Nicosia was dangerously high, according to recent environmental studies carried out by the Ministry of Labour.
The findings showed that the level of lead in the environment in the Ayios Antonis area was very high and could jeopardise children's health.
There were a lot of cars that were old or not well-maintained that were spreading pollution everywhere, Demetriades said. These vehicles had to be banned from the streets or fixed in such a way that they no longer posed a threat to the environment.
"The government said about eight years ago that it would take care of the matter but it has still not implemented measures to tackle the problem. Traffic wardens are supposed to arrest those who break the law but they do nothing," the mayor complained.
"That is why I have initiated by ex-officio a ruling to arrest drivers who cause excessive pollution to the environment or noise pollution. A common form of pollution is the one caused by lead."
Demetriades hopes his proposal will be endorsed by the other local authorities and that by autumn, the drivers of dangerous vehicles will be able to be prosecuted and made to pay heavy fines if found guilty of causing pollution.
"The decision of how heavy the penalty should be will be made based on other European countries' policy on the matter," he said.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail
CYPRUS is losing foreign business because the local telecommunications authority, Cyta, is blocking competing companies offering cheap calls abroad.
Earlier this month, Cyta began cutting off the lines of third party long distance call providers, insisting they were illegal.
The many offshore firms using such callback and switching services now face a choice between paying Cyta's higher rates or relocating away from the island.
Construction firm Tecno Industries is one offshore company being forced out by Cyta's stranglehold on the local telecommunications market.
"The whole thing is just a case of sour grapes because they (Cyta) can't get their money out of people," Tecno's Frank Browne told The Sunday Mail yesterday.
Tecno used to route all its foreign calls through a switching service now blocked by Cyta. The company is now moving its local office elsewhere because it is simply unwilling to pay the higher Cyta rates.
"We will move our whole operation to one of our other international bases -- we can't cope with it," Browne said.
"My whole business revolves around contacting people abroad and I have managed (by using the switching service) to cut my bills to 25 per cent -- that's 75 per cent lower -- of what they were under Cyta's regime."
Cyta rates for overseas calls are approximately twice as high as those offered by callback or switching services. The authority argues that charging high rates for overseas calls allows it to keep local calls cheap.
Tecno wasncensed by the manner in which Cyta cut off itsitching service at around midday on Friday.
"We were not given any warning at all, and, even worse, when I called Cyta yesterday nobody wanted to know," Browne said.
"Cyta's timing is wonderful, they do it on a Friday lunchtime because they know then that nothing is going to happen till Monday."
Browne said his company's operations had been brought to a complete standstill by the telecommunications authority.
To add insult to injury, Cyta has suspended all calls to agents representing the switching service providers.
"We can’t make any overseas calls except through mobile telephones... I cannot disconnect the (switching service) equipment because Cyta has now denied me the right to contact the companies to come along and remove it all," he protested.
Browne questioned Cyta's claims that third party call providers were operating illegally. He suggested Cyta had approved, or at least turned a blind eye to, the switching service company setting up on the island and to his company installing equipment in order to use it.
"All the (relevant) electronic equipment has got ‘Cyta-approved’ stickers all over it, so they must have known when this equipment was imported that it was for this purpose," he said.
He added that third party overseas call providers had been leased lines by Cyta.
"Obviously Cyta knows it is skating on thin ice, so rather that do the correct thing and bring their alleged perpetrators to court and put their rather weak case on the table, they have chosen instead to punish the clients of these services by cutting their lines," Browne said.
Cyta's response yesterday was to repeat that competing long distance call providers did not have a legal leg to stand on.
"I do not know the exact details of this case, but, according to the law, telecommunications services are provided only by Cyta," Cyta spokeswoman Rita Karadja replied when asked about the Tecno case yesterday.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail
THE GOVERNMENT has warned that the annual state subsidy for broadcaster CyBC -- which from next month loses its source of funding via Electricity Authority bills -- must not be taken for granted.
A ministerial committee on the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, chaired by Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, has sent the semi-government channel's board of directors a written statement, clarifying that the government's decision to allocate an annual amount of £10,000,000 or £12, 000,000 to the channel will be subject to the quality and context of CyBC programming.
The government would have to ensure that CyBC's programmes would be of a certain quality and context, defined by government's guidelines, Christodoulou said.
From July 1, EAC bills will no longer include a CyBC levy.
At a meeting of the ministerial council formed by the ministers of the Interior, Finance and Education and Culture, former CyBC chairmen stressed the importance of quality-driven programme making and the need for the channel to "tidy up" its finances.
But CyBC's board of directors have not yet taken any decisions on the matter.
CyBC sources expressed their discomfort with the government's plans to improve the channel's programme quality, concerned about what such a move would have on its popularity.
"CyBC was forced to dumb down its repertoire when the other channels started to draw the audience's attention by transmitting foreign and local comedy programmes. If CyBC starts to transmit more documentaries and drama series and less comedy series and soap operas that would take its popularity to zero, and possibly force the channel to close down, " the sources said.
They said the audience wanted entertainment, which is not necessarily of a high quality.
"The Manolis and Katina and Firdin Migdin comedy series, as well as Savvatovrado, are responsible for keeping the channel's popularity figures high."
© Copyright Cyprus Mail
FOR THE first time ever Cyprus Airways stewardesses will be wearing the pants as part of the airline’s new millennium look for its staff.
The new uniform for pilots, cabin crew and ground staff will be unveiled to the public this week in Nicosia after a private showing to employees at Larnaca Airport on Tuesday.
The airline’s spokesman Tassos Angelis told The Sunday Mail the design for the new uniforms has been awarded to a French firm which competed for the contract with six local and two other international companies.
Paris-based Balenciaga submitted several designs and was awarded the design contract by a selection committee comprising both management and staff.
"Balenciaga has designed for Air France and other airlines," Angelis said. He declined to reveal the cost of the new look since production has not even started yet. "But the present uniform is eight years old," he said.
The current two-piece for women comprises a plain A-line blue skirt with a practical front pleat and matching jacket with ochre trimmings in keeping with the national carrier’s colour scheme.
Even more practical and likely very welcome will be the option for stewardesses to wear pants to work for the first time in the airline’s 53- year history.
Six models, three men and three women, will be flown in from France to model the new uniforms at the Hilton Hotel on Wednesday night.
Angelis said Balenciaga came up with several designs "some casual and colourful" but the selection committee opted for the classical look, he said.
Production tenders for the uniforms to outfit some 1,000 staff have not been issued yet, but the competition will be open to foreign companies as well as local, Angelis said. "They should be wearing the new uniforms by autumn," he added.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail