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Greek Cypriot teachers plant trees for peace

Greek Cypriot teachers visited schools in the north on Tuesday and planted three olive trees as a sign of peace.

The 60 teachers, accompanied by their Turkish Cypriot counterparts, visited three schools of primary and secondary education for the first time in over two years.

Turkish Cypriot teachers are expected to the same in February.

“We are not politicians, we are teachers. As teachers we want to be active and do our part for a united, free Cyprus, without hate, without fanaticism, united for all,” Maria Mavrada, co-chairwoman of United Cyprus, a platform of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot teachers said.

Sener Elcil, general secretary of Turkish Cypriot teachers’ union KTOS, said “as teachers we played a negative role in the past, creating hatred and division in the minds of the people. We are suffering from the divide.  Today’s event could be a good example for all Cypriots.”

The event was followed by an exchange of views between the educators.

Elcil said they have been divided since 1963 and there needed to be more cooperation and exchange of ideas between educators.

“We as teachers need to break down the walls in the minds of the people. This is a big mission. Today is an important action and a good start.”

Last month, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci announced ab agreement on establishing a new technical committee for education that will be tasked with reviewing educational practices in an attempt to combat racism, xenophobia and extremism.

The committee is to review existing research and good practices in education in Cyprus and abroad and undertake new relevant research on how education can contribute to conflict transformation, peace, reconciliation and the countering of prejudice, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and extremism, according to an official statement.

They will work on devising a mutually acceptable mechanism for the implementation of confidence building measures in schools of the two educational systems and promote contact and co-operation between students and educators from the two communities.

In addition best policy options and course of action that will allow co-ordination of the two educational systems will be recommended, “thus contributing to a viable, sustainable and functional bi-communal, bi-zonal federation”.

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