By Constantinos Psillides
An appeal demanding that the Supreme Court order the English School to incorporate the Muslim holiday Bayram into the school’s holiday calendar has been rejected on the grounds that the Supreme Court cannot legally order the school to do so.
The appeal was filed by parents of Turkish Cypriot students, who have been trying for years to get Bayram recognised as an official school holiday. Turkish Cypriots account for 10 per cent of the school population, around 140 students. Turkish Cypriots were readmitted for the first time in 29 years in 2003, following the opening of the checkpoints.
The parents’ court appeal was based on a letter issued by the office of the Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou in October 2013, asking the school’s board to consider making Bayram a school holiday. The Supreme Court responded that recommendations made by the Ombudswoman’s office were not legally binding and thus the court could not order the school board to comply.
The school’s board chairperson Magda Nicholson told the Cyprus Mail on Monday that the school will allow all Muslim students and staff to take Monday October 6 off –the final day of the three day religious holiday- without any absences recorded, while instructing teachers not to conduct tests or cover any new material in the classroom.
Only once in recent years was Bayram declared a school holiday, during the 2009-2010 school year.
Nicholson explained that based on the school’s charter, the English School is a Christian school but with a non-dogmatic character that strives to accommodate the religious beliefs of its students.
“The school respects the religious views of all its students. It is out of this respect that we decided to allow all Muslim students and faculty to be allowed to take the day off,” said Nicholson.
Asked whether the school’s decision came after the Supreme Court ruling, Nicholson responded that the board had no idea that a ruling was issued and that they learned about it from the press.
Following independence in 1960, a special law was enacted passing control of the English School to the Cyprus Republic. The government, not the education ministry, oversees the operations of the school with the ministerial cabinet responsible for appointing a board of management.
Ombudwoman Eliza Savvidou has not yet responded to calls seeking a comment.