Time to open schools, not close them

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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