Dozens of children gathered on Friday afternoon outside the Phaneromeni school in the old part of Nicosia protesting against plans for the relocation of the University of Cyprus’ architecture department to the building.
The school currently operates as a primary and lower high school with around 120 pupils in total. The children will be sent to other schools in the area.
During the protest pupils stood on the steps of their school holding placards with slogans saying they wished to continue their studies there.
Since the announcement that the university, the archbishopric, the finance ministry and the Nicosia municipality had agreed on the relocation of the architecture department in the Phaneromeni school building, parents and groups of teachers expressed their disagreement.
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Friday the university school’s relocation to Phaneromeni was part of wider plans for the revival of the old town.
Though he did not know when this change of guard would take place, his ministry was ready for the relocation of the children to other schools in the area, Prodromou said.
He said that the Phaneromeni hosts a very small number of children which is to the detriment of the pupils themselves. They will be sent to other schools in the area that offer a better educational experience.
“We understand that any change upsets people, but these children’s education, be it in primary or high school, will continue in other schools, not far from this area,” Prodromou said.
The minister said that, following a cabinet decision, the facilities of the Eugeniou and Antonias Theodotou, Eleneio and Agios Kassianos primary schools, located in the historic centre of Nicosia, would be upgraded. These upgrades also take into account the fact that these schools will also welcome students from Phaneromeni.
“It will not just be the relocation of the architecture school, many other projects will take place in that area,” the minister said.
He added that as a Nicosian himself, “we want our city to have a living, historic centre and not just be a remnant of the past.”
A parent told state broadcaster CyBC in the morning that they were shocked to hear the development as they were not informed by the ministry.
She also said that sending the children to other schools would create problems as many go on foot and would have to cross very busy roads to get to the other schools in the same area.
The parents’ associations questioned the claim that the relocation of the university department would revitalise the area. They said these claims fail to mention that the architecture department has been in the area for 15 years, housed in a building on Ledra Street.
Criticism also focused on the fact that many of the children going to Phaneromeni were migrants and suggested proponents of the move were trying to push them out of the historic centre for profit.
The university’s architecture department said in a statement on Friday: “Continuing the positive presence of the academic community in the city centre and maintaining the pluralism of the area is a priority.”