Student and parent associations at the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia said on Tuesday they had not discouraged pupils from attending a June 13 protest over building and excavation work taking place at the school.
“We refute the allegations which were heard by some that the school’s students had been approached or intimidated and extorted by the school administration so as not to attend the protest,” the groups said in a statement.
Both the student council and the parents’ association said it would be unacceptable to exploit the children in such a way and involve them in any disputes on any matter.
“We are watching with caution the developments concerning the works carried out at the Pancyprian Gymnasium. We have confidence in the handling of the competent departments and will intervene when necessary,” they said.
According to some protesters from the Protection of the Pancyprian Gymnasium movement, the works being carried out are leading to the destruction of ancient artifacts that are ending up in rubbish bins.
Protesters have started a petition demanding respect for the school’s history and proper archaeological excavations.
Some claimed that students did not attend the June 13 protest because school officials told them their grades would be affected if they went.
Assistant Director of the Pancyprian Gymnasium Giorgos Christodoulou said the goal of the interventions is to destroy every aspect of the Greek Orthodox culture in the school.
“The history of this school goes back to the fall of Constantinople and it is probably one of the most ancient Greek schools. The students of the school have always been the pole of resistance against the Ottomans and the British. Students and teachers cannot not be silenced in such way. The ministry of education has tremendous faults,” he said.
The head of the Pancyprian Gymnasium movement, Iris Taliadorou, told the Cyprus Mail that “we demand respect for the historic building of the school which is a listed building, as well as the issue of a resolution for archaeological excavations in the remaining area of the courtyard that is proclaimed as an ancient monument”.
The ministry of education issued a statement saying the reactions of a small group of people instigated by the Pancyprian Gymnasium Defence Committee are devoid of scientific knowledge and therefore unjustified and creating unnecessary confusion and disruption.
The ministry also said the Department of Antiquities is monitoring the issue of archaeological finds on the site.