The Commissioner for Children’s Rights Despo Michaelidou on Tuesday expressed her concern after students from two schools were banned from taking part in an island-wide vote over whether to go on strike on Wednesday.
Pupils at the Nicosia Pancyprian Gymnasium and at the Fotis Pitta Kokkinochoria High School were reportedly banned from taking part in a schools referendum on January 29, in which the overwhelming majority voted in favour of stepping up measures against the education ministry’s decision to implement four-monthly exams in high schools.
In a written statement, student group Psem said the pupils have expressed opposition to the exams for the past three years, and stressed the need to escalate measures due to the lack of dialogue with the ministry.
“Banning students from voting is a blow to the state’s efforts to promote and protect children’s rights and, in particular, the right to freedom of expression,” Michaelidou said.
Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees every child the freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.
“State agencies have an obligation to give children the opportunity to express their views freely and to take them seriously,” the commissioner said.
“The actions attributed to the directors of the schools in question constitute a hindrance to the mechanism for safeguarding the rights of students.
“At the same time, they are sending a negative message to the children, while posing serious risks to the democratic functioning and development of a modern European society,” she concluded.
Students at all high schools across the island will walk out of classes on Wednesday.