A newly introduced school bus fare which has been heavily criticised by secondary students and their families is to be re-examined next Thursday by the House Communications Committee.
Speaking to the media, Committee Chairman Antonis Antoniou said intensive efforts are underway to reach an agreement that will please everyone involved.
“Unfortunately, in light of the current economic difficulties, scrapping the fare entirely is just not feasible. However, we are working hard to find a way to exclude other groups of students from paying the fee if possible.”
The €15 monthly fare introduced on January 6 has been condemned by secondary school students who say they are already struggling to pay for their necessary supplies and should not be further burdened.
Primary school pupils are currently exempt from paying the new fare as are students whose families have qualified to receive state welfare benefits.
Disy Deputy Andreas Michailides said the authorities are going to great lengths to ensure that not one student misses out on their education as a result of the introduction of the fare.
“The Communications Minister has been extremely flexible in the drive to reach a happy medium.”
Edek MP Nicos Nicolaides said he agreed that fares should be scrapped entirely if possible.
“Free bus fares are a basic service that should be available for all secondary students. The government decision to raise €10 million should not burden student transportation.”
Meanwhile, members of the public – the majority students – yesterday demonstrated against the new bus fair outside the Ministry of Communications in the capital.
Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, head of the Cyprus Pupils Coordinating Committee (PSEM) Panayiotis Monoyios said people of all ages joined the demo to express their outrage against the charging for school bus trips.
“We were extremely pleased as we had student representatives from every district in Cyprus attend and managed to deliver a signed petition to representatives of the Ministry of Communications.”
Commenting on the House Communications Committee meeting next Thursday, during which the matter will be discussed further, Monoyios said this was a positive result but not a victory.
“We were told by the Ministry of Communications that the minister would contact us directly to discuss the fare and the problems it is causing but this has not yet happened.”
He added that PSEM will be keeping a close eye on the matter and will hold further demonstrations until the bus fare on all student transport is fully withdrawn.