Teaching Turkish Cypriot literary texts in state high schools is part of the education ministry’s goal of promoting a peace culture and is not subject to individual consciousness, the head of the ministry’s secondary education department Kyprianos Louis said on Tuesday.
The education ministry was urged to respond following the maelstrom caused by the letter a mother of a Limassol second grade lyceum student sent to the head teacher on Monday asking that her daughter be exempted from the Greek language and literature class whenever Turkish Cypriot literary texts are taught.
In her letter, Maria Moustaka justified her request by arguing that schools “do not teach anymore the struggles of our ancestors” and that the youth cannot write Greek properly anymore due to the widespread use of Greeklish.
“…it is not enough that the religious studies course became ‘history of religions’, it is not enough that they are trying to slowly make obsolete the relations between the two peoples in the history class, now we will forget our poets too,” the letter said. “This way they help, they say, in the coexistence of the two peoples”.
The education ministry, Moustaka said, “is regrettably forcing me as a parent to act this way, but I would like to ask that my child is exempted from the Greek language and literature class whenever texts of Turkish Cypriot litterateurs are taught”.
“I personally want my child to be nurtured with the civilisation and the struggles of our nation and the Greek Christian ideals,” the letter said. She also expressed hope that more parents would put forth the same request.
“I want to make clear that I just expressed my concerns on this issue and that I have nothing against Turkish Cypriots or reaching a settlement solution. Who wouldn’t want that?” Moustaka told the Cyprus Mail.
She added that she is not a nationalist and was shocked to find out that her expressing her opinion resulted in many distorting what she said in the letter and even accusing her of having the backing of a specific political party.
“There are no political expediencies behind my letter. I just expressed my concerns as a mother,” Moustaka said. Teaching literary works of Turkish Cypriots, she said, is of secondary importance at this point.
“There are more important issues plaguing the educational system that should be addressed,” she said. Moustaka said she was not against teaching world literature in schools but that teaching Turkish Cypriot works “is like teaching the literary works of our conquerors”. This because Turkish Cypriots, she said, are adherents of and also tied up to Turkey’s policies.
“Do they teach in schools in the north literary works of Greek Cypriots? I bet not,” she said. She added that many Greek Cypriot pupils don’t even know what the national holidays of October 1, October 28 and March 25 stand for.
“Our children should first learn those concerning us and then let them learn the rest,” Moustaka said.
Moustaka became the subject of strong criticism due to her request, after the letter circulated on social media, but also received the support of many, she said.
She said that she received many calls from other parents but also teachers who asked her to form an organised group so that they can put pressure on this issue, even legally.
“This is not an issue of individual conscience but it is part of the education ministry’s wider strategic goals to cultivate a peace culture,” Louis told the Cyprus Mail.
“There is no political extension,” Louis said. Moreover, he said, teaching Turkish Cypriot works is not obligatory, as teachers have at their disposal a pool of texts and each can choose those which he or she deems are most suitable to achieve educational goals.