Around 60 Greek Cypriot teachers have crossed over to the occupied-area of Nicosia to visit Turkish Cypriot schools, conveying messages of peace, friendship and cooperation.
As a symbolic gesture of peace between the two communities the Greek Cypriot teachers, who were accompanied on their visit by Turkish Cypriot teachers, gave olive trees to be planted in the area of the schools.
This is the first such visit taking place in more than two years and a similar visit by Turkish Cypriot teachers to Greek Cypriot schools will follow next February.
Maria Mavrada, the co-chair of the platform of G/C and T/C teachers ‘United Cyprus’ which was created in 2004, stressed that on the occasion of the new year they wanted to convey to their fellow teachers a message of peace and friendship. “We are not politicians, we are teachers. As teachers we want to take action and to do our share for a single, free Cyprus, without hatred, without fanaticism, united, for everyone.”
According to Mavrada, around 60 Greek Cypriot teachers responded to the call of the platform and declared participation in today’s visit.
General-secretary of T/C secondary education teachers union, KTOEOS, Vendat Tek said that teachers from both communities send a message to the authorities on both sides that they want peace.
KTOS general-secretary Sener Elcil said that this is a significant event that had been planned for some time. He talked about the bloodshed in the region and the expectation for a solution to the Cyprus problem after the election of Mustafa Akinci in the leadership of T/C. “As teachers we played a bad role in the past, creating hatred and division in people’s minds. We suffer from the separation. Today’s event can be a good example for all Cypriots.”
Teachers collaborate to raise their voices for reunification, for a united Cyprus where we can live and work with G/C, and teachers can be a good example, he added.
Since 1963 we have been divided into two, he noted, adding that more collaboration and an exchange of views and ideas is needed. He also expressed his view that teachers have a significant role to play in the solution of the Cyprus problem. “We as teachers need to tear down the walls in people’s minds. This is the great mission. Today is an important event and a good start,” he said, adding that he was pleased to see new faces during the event.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of one third of its territory. UN-backed negotiations are underway with the aim of reuniting the island under a federal roof.