Education and Culture Minister positive on teacher visits across the divide (Cyprus)

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Education and Culture Minister positive on teacher visits across the divide (Cyprus)

(Original article: In-Cyprus.com, Feb. 13, 2016)

Education and Culture Minister Costas Kadis on Friday said that initiatives such as the visits of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teachers to schools in both communities of Cyprus are very positive.

Speaking during a visit to a school in the Limassol District, the Minister said that it is particularly important when such events come at the initiative of teachers and students, who are the actors and protagonists of the local educational system.

He further said that the Technical Committee for Education is working towards the same end and has the same philosophy. Kadis said he met recently with the members of the Committee and they exchanged views on how to promote a culture of peace, respect for diversity and different opinions as well as mutual respect between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

The Head of the Technical Committee Michalinos Zembylas told CNA that any changes to be made in the framework of the Technical Committee`s project on Education will be agreed by both sides, respecting their particularities and concerns, and will not provoke public opinion.

Zembylas met yesterday for the first time with the Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Turkish Cypriot side Meltem Onurkan, with whom he discussed the general terms of the Committee`s mandate. As he said, the first meeting of all the members of the Committee will take place February 25, but the date is yet to be finalized.

Zembylas told CNA that there are short-term and long-term goals and once the members get acquainted, they will discuss the establishment of working groups.

He furthermore said that during the meeting the members had last Wednesday with the Education Minister, they discussed the general framework in which to proceed and decided to form these working groups to focus on specific issues in order for the whole effort to be more productive and efficient.

Zembylas said that in promoting the objectives of the Committee, the members will look at examples of various countries such as Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to draw ideas, but acknowledging and respecting the sensitivities that exist on the island.

As regard the literature aspect, he said that they will study both the international and local literature in order to see good practices that can be applied in order to promote reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.

Zembylas added that a framework will be set up that will not create any concerns among the educators, but will bring together teachers, students and parents.

He said that the Committee can build on the strategy for anti-racism that was launched last year by the Ministry of Education, pointing out that “through this policy we can promote the principles of respect for diversity and tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and combat of stereotypes.”

Zembylas told CNA that the road ahead is not going to be easy and that it will take effort to deconstruct the stereotypes of entire decades.

Invited to comment on the concerns regarding changes of books, he said that at this stage there is no intention to change books and that one of the most important priorities is to bring together teachers and students rather than get engaged in such discussions about changes, adding that the issue is not on the table at this time.

Replying to another question, he said that the main objective is not to force people to do things about which they have serious concerns but rather to convince them that it is for the benefit of their children and for the benefit of their children`s future and the country itself to embark on this effort.

Replying to another question, he said that the main objective is not to force people to do things about which they have serious concerns but rather to convince them that it is for the benefit of their children and for the benefit of their children`s future and the country itself to embark on this effort.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN backed talks resumed last May aiming to reunite the island under a federal roof.

The establishment of the Technical Committee was announced by President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci last November, aiming to examine how education could contribute to fostering a culture of peace and reconciliation.The Committee will focus on finding mutually acceptable confidence-building measures and ways of cooperation between students and teachers from both communities.

The Committee will focus on finding mutually acceptable confidence-building measures and ways of cooperation between students and teachers from both communities.

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