We need to feel, think, and understand how our fellow human beings with disabilities live, and pass on this empathy to children, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Friday.

“We cultivate empathy in our schools through the subject of health education,” Prodromou said, adding that this year, following suggestions from disability support groups, the ministry decided to establish December as a month of empathy for people with disabilities.

He was speaking during a visit to Pernera primary school in Nicosia on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, where he was joined by Paralympic gold medalist Karolina Pelendritou, who will serve as a school ambassador for the programme.

“We need to feel, think and understand how our fellow human beings with disabilities live and what they face,” and pass on the message to children through involving them in immersive activities, Prodromou said.

“Karolina, with her brilliant accomplishments in the field of sports, more than proves that people with disabilities have the ability, if we give them the right to equal participation, to distinguish themselves and live their lives as they deserve”.

The ministry will organise a series of interactive events and activities such as wheelchair basketball games, vision-impaired football games, but also visits from people like Pelendritou, “who can pass on the message to children better than anyone”.

“We want our children to grow up to be well-rounded individuals, with the necessary awareness of our disabled fellow humans’ right to equal treatment,” Prodromou concluded.

For her part, Pelendritou said today is very important for anyone facing any disabilities.

“I want to send the message to children at this age that anything can happen to them in life, at any time, and they must face it with strength and vigour in order to go one step further”.

She added that children need to learn to respect their classmates who may have a disability, to cultivate empathy, to offer help and solidarity to these children and allow them to integrate in society without violence and bullying.

“I am very happy, as I have also been a student and I understand these children,” she said.

“Through my own experiences, I want to help them avoid some situations that may offend others and encourage them to come together as a balanced and creative society”.