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Cyprus

Situation in Rizokarpaso schools ‘very serious’

Classroom inside the Rizokarpaso school
File photo: a classroom inside the Rizokarpaso school

By Iole Damaskinos and Nikolaos Prakas

 

The government will take all necessary action as soon as possible for Rizokarpaso schools it emerged on Tuesday after interventions by Turkish Cypriot officials have been consistently taking place, inhibiting teachers from doing their job.

The government took immediate action from the beginning, we have been informed, and all the facts are being investigated and we will take all the necessary action as soon as possible,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said a day after the issue arose.

On Monday, it emerged that Turkish Cypriot officials had entered into Greek Cypriot schools unannounced in Rizokarpaso to inspect the books being used.

Since last May, support for Greek Cypriot schools in Rizokarpaso has been obstructed Education Minister Athena Michaelidou said earlier in the day, also referring to the latest incident of inspections by Turkish Cypriot officials, reported on Monday.

According to the ministry, officials, who could not be identified, entered the pre-school, middle school, and secondary school and “began to check everything, books, notebooks, classrooms, as well as electronic and other teaching materials.”

Additionally, they said, the officials “isolated teachers and subjected them to continuous questioning.”

These actions “simply confirm what we were saying [and what] we discussed at the level of the European Parliament,” Michaelidou said.

“I personally was invited to [speak at] the [parliament] with the help of our MEPs, to present this aspect of the Cyprus problem, [one] of the dramas we have been living for 50 years,” she said.

The minister said the situation had been confirmed as “very serious” and that since May no visits by [education ministry] inspectors have been allowed, nor training of teachers onsite, nor repairs of their buildings or other support.

Due to the severity of the problem, the matter has been taken over by the ministry of foreign affairs, Michaelidou said.

Some confusion surrounds the ongoing saga with some reports suggesting that teachers at the schools in question are themselves not enamoured of frequent ministry checks.

The north’s ‘authorities’ do check all the books that come into the schools and have in the past banned history and English books.

The books are checked by the north and approved for use for two years. If a book is not approved or there is problem, it might have some pages removed, and teachers have to work around it.

The north’s foreign ministry is not blocking inspectors, according to this analysis, however, the recognised protocol is for the Republic’s foreign ministry to file a request with the UN for visits.

Asked to comment on information about a new incident with the occupying army in Achna, the spokesman said that “any information is being investigated to see whether it is correct”.

Earlier reports suggested that the Turkish army were monitoring works being done by British Bases forces in the sovereign base area near Achna.

Asked if there was any news on the issue of Pyla, the spokesman replied in the negative, adding that “we are in contact with the peacekeeping force at every opportunity and we reiterate what we have said from the beginning that the full implementation of all the provisions of the Understanding is in the interest of both communities.”

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