By Evie Andreou
Children from a Nicosia primary school who stayed home on Tuesday after parents said they had been terrorised by acts of vandalism and firecracker throwing in the run up to Easter will return to their desks on Thursday, the education ministry said.
The parents’ association of Ayios Georgios primary school in Aglandjia had announced on Monday the children would not go to school for the rest of this week as they feared for their safety since authorities had failed to stop a group of teenagers from terrorising the school.
Parents said they were forced to keep their kids off school since repeated pleas for help to the school, school district, the municipality and police had all fallen on deaf ears.
Reportedly, the teenagers gather each year by the church, next to the school, to light a fire, however this year they moved to the school yard instead as their usual gathering place is now a construction site.
Traditionally bonfires are lit on Holy Saturday to burn a replica of Judas after the message of resurrection is heard. Youths in all areas collect wood and old furniture to make as a large bonfire as possible.
Over the years firecrackers have become popular and it is not uncommon for them to be thrown weeks before Easter.
“The situation has got out of hand, there is a construction site nearby and the group because they have no access to the site anymore, enter the school grounds,” head of the school’s parents’ association Evgenia Erodotou said.
She said the youths have also stolen tools and materials from the construction site and as a result of this and the fire starting children who stay at school in the afternoon are too afraid to even use the toilets.
“We have asked for help from all interested parties, we even gave it in writing… we can’t leave minors exposed to danger… we decided that we have to protect our children,” Erodotou said.
She added that police cannot do much as the trouble makers are minors so the parents arranged to guard the school’s grounds themselves.
Head of the Aglandjia school district Costas Papakyprinaou said police increased patrols in the area but they said they cannot interfere since perpetrators are minors.
“Municipality crews collect daily what the teenagers gather in the school yard for burning, we try within our means to help avoid damage being made on school property,” said Aglandjia mayor Costas Kortas.
“We have asked that children return to school on Thursday, since tomorrow is a national holiday, and we reassured the parents that we would provide extra security for the children,” the education ministry’s head of primary education Elpidoforos Neokleous, told the Cyprus Mail.
He added that the ministry took all the measures it could take.
“We gave significant funds to the Aglandjia school district to hire private guards for the school and we also gave permission to them to use more funds to hire more guards,” he said.