Removing the elements of division and nationalism from education would help rapprochement, the new head of the Turkish Cypriot teacher union KTOS has said.
Semen Saygun, the first female head of KTOS, said children had to be brought up with a mentality of peace and not division and animosity.
“Nationalism affects new generations a lot. As we see the situation is similar in the south,” she told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview.
Saygun said teachers on both sides of the divide must be the first to rid themselves of nationalist views and then do the same with the new generations.
“There is a need for education that serves reunification and not division,” she said.
In March 2014, the Turkish Cypriot education council decided to scrap the Kemal Ataturk oath, make religious studies optional and make Greek language compulsory, she said.
However, the decisions were of an advisory nature and have not been implemented. Nor was there a political will, she said. Saygun said they expected similar decisions to be made by Greek Cypriot educators, noting the influence religion and nationalism had on people.
The Turkish Cypriot educator said Turkey’s ruling party AKP was putting pressure on them as regards religion, which was treated very carefully.
“If only we adopted the same diligence with nationalism,” she said. “If you start educating a child today, you will reap the fruit in 10 years, at the earliest.”
“After 10 years you will see someone free from nationalism, who will not be serving the policies of division. That is why we must start immediately.”
Unions may be unable to influence the curriculum or book contents, but teachers can limit certain, nationalist, elements.
Saygun said some contacts have been made with Greek Cypriot organisations, but they wanted to broaden their co-operation and hold joint events.
Children can be taught not to be racist and nationalist, or view the other person as the enemy.
“Teachers on both sides must teach this way. We do no want people who will create more enemies. We want to raise people who will listen and understand each other.”
Schools were not the place to celebrate national days and children should be taught humanitarian values, she said.
“If you really want peace, you should scrap national day celebrations in schools.”