By Andria Kades
Lakatamia C primary school has become the seventh educational establishment in Cyprus to implement a European programme combating racism and racial discrimination.
At an event held earlier this week for teachers, parents and students, Minister of Education Costas Kadis highlighted the importance of nurturing values of freedom, equality and tolerance in a student population that now has a multicultural identity.
“We have a collective duty to fight against racial discrimination, respect differences and protect the rights of every individual child,” Kadis said
Policies include monitoring root causes of racist behaviour, ensuring that human rights education is an integral part of the school curriculum and providing resources such as language services to children and parents from minority groups to encourage communication.
There are now three schools in Nicosia adhering to the programme, one of which is a high school, three primary schools in Limassol and one high school in Larnaca.
“We have had very very positive results with the programme,” inspector for primary education Eleni Charalambous told the Cyprus Mail.
Any school can adopt the initiative however it is up to all members: the teachers, parents and students of every individual school, to suggest means of combating the issues. For example, in one case where pupils spoke different languages, music was chosen as a means to convey a message against racism.
In another, theatre was used to illustrate issues of discrimination. Games to include all classmates were organised and library sessions where interested students heard anti-racism stories.
Engaging the student body is vital to the success of the programme as the needs of every school are different due to social demographics, Charalambous said.
“Our aim is to educate and not punish. If a student is showing signs of racist behaviour we show them how that can be hurtful rather than simply punish them.”
In primary schools, the problems are not too major or violent, mostly teasing or not inviting classmates to birthday parties, Charalambous said, noting that if they can become conscious from a young age the troubles seen at later stages can be avoided.
“Racism is an international phenomenon. If it exists in society it will exist in schools. We are fighting it however there is always room for improvement.”
The behaviour code adopted in Strasburg in 2006 is supported by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Cyprus. There will be a presentation in May to discuss the amassed results.