By Constantinos Psillides
CYPRUS has a problem with racism in schools and there is no use in denying it, said the Head of the Authority Against Racism and Discrimination Aristos Tsiartas yesterday.
Tsiartas was speaking after the presentation of an anti-racist code of conduct by the education ministry.
“We should accept that there is racism in Cyprus. We should admit that racist criminal acts are taking place and that racism is indeed present in our schools,” warned Tsiartas, congratulating the ministry on its initiative.
The code aims at tackling the issue comprehensively by introducing a number of steps that should be taken when an educator is faced with a racist incident at school and suggesting specific measures to be taken to deal with incidents pre-emptively.
The new code, suggested by Dr Elena Papamichail and Dr Michalinos Zembilas, will be introduced on a voluntary basis at first. The implementation will be evaluated within 2015 and if the evaluation is successful then it will be introduced by the ministry official policy.
Eight elementary and high schools have already requested to implement the code.
Both Tsiartas and Education Minister Kostas Kadis hailed the new initiative as ‘pioneering’.
“Our goal isn’t to demonise racist behaviour. Many of us exhibit racist behaviour but we are unaware that we do so. Our aim is to correctly identify said behaviour and help educators to diagnose and remedy it,” said Zembilas, adding that he had no illusions of eradicating racism.
The initiative also shies away from more conventional means of battling racism, such as simple diversity acceptance exercises for the classroom or diversity festivals. “It has been proven that actions like these deal with the problem on the surface and as such are deemed ineffective,” argued Papamichail.
Kadis welcomed the initiative, saying that it would a useful tool for educators.
“Any racist behaviour should be identified as such and dealt with in a timely and decisive manner. If not it would result in the victims being traumatised not only as individuals but as members of the group they belong to. To that end, schools should report incidents of this nature. Reporting them is not a sign of weakness but on the contrary it demonstrates their resolve to protect the school community in whole and all its individual members,” he said.