Time to open schools, not close them
E DII TO RII A L
Since 1951, the Forestry College has been quietly churning out forestry officers, with agricultural, legal and research know-how, caring for the wellbeing of every plant and tree on the island. It has also been the backbone of the Forestry Dept. that relied on the annual output of graduates to man its operations that range from fire-fighting and prevention, to sustainable growth and planning.
Unfortunately, as this has never been a soughtafter job in the civil service, the College has been in decline in recent years, resulting in this year’s graduates being the last, for the time being.
Agriculture and Environment Minister Nicos Kouyialis said this week that the school is being “suspended and not closed.”
The mistake had been that past and present administrations have never grasped the importance of a forestry college, ill-guided by politicians and trade unions that decided that money “wasted” on this institution could be better used for other resources, such as the self-pampering Civil Service Academy, an oxymoron in its own right.
Instead of renaming it the Forestry and Environment College, the government has taken the misguided decision to shut it down.
Instead of upgrading it and ensuring its perpetuity by establishing a trust, it has been demoted over the years, just as the fate of the Higher Technical Institute, the only college-level school that provided vocation-based learning for electricians and engineers and used to provide unique maritime courses that provided the trainees and new breed for the future of shipping.
So, where are we to get our future foresters from? Greece, that is struggling with its own economy? The Cyprus state universities, that cultivate anachronistic, nationalistic and civil service attitudes? Or the private universities, that charge an arm and a leg for new courses such as energy and casino studies.
It will be most embarrassing for Minister Kouyialis (or President Anastasiades) to be asked at the upcoming Sustainable Future summit in Paris by the likes of Jeffrey Sachs, “and what have YOU done in Cyprus?” The natural answer to be blurted out will be, “we just shut down our Forestry College”.
Tim have changed, but some institutions in Cyprus, that continue to be controlled by civil servants and their unions, are destined for demise, because no one has the vision of what lies ahead.
There would have been nothing wrong for the Forestry College to continue under the auspices of the University of Cyprus, maintaining its vocational mission but also adopting a research character to look into the wellbeing of our (and our region’s) forests.
With the ‘sustainable’ phenomenon now expanded to so many spheres (tourism, etc.), the Forestry and Environment College would have had a clear task ahead, if only a minister had the courage to stand up and campaign for its reopening.