Cyprus Problem | The Role of Education in Cyprus

Cyprus Problem | The Role of Education in CyprusCyprus Problem | The Role of Education in Cyprus

Although a huge number of Turkish Cypriots stated that they wanted a solution almost ten years ago in 2004, these days it is possible to observe a significant decrease in the number of Turkish Cypriots who believe in any kind of unification. Ongoing negotiations between the two communities do not seem to be fruitful. There is only one question in my mind: do we, as today’s youth, have to wait fifty years to reach a solution? The answer is no, on condition that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots accept to make some improvements and changes in their education system and history books.

Knowing each other’s language is a very friendly sign. Before the conflict began in 1960s, the schools in Cyprus had provided education based on three languages; namely, Greek, Turkish and English. However, because of patriotic influence on both sides, the schools started to teach in only one language. Learning Greek as a Turk meant betrayal. Those distasteful movements played a big role in ruining all the warm relations and it caused polarisation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

After the referendum in 2004, the efforts on reaching a quick solution showed acceleration in the North. Greek as a foreign language was put into the curriculum. Starting from secondary school, the students had optional Greek lessons three times a week. While I was in high school, our teachers were trying their best to encourage us. Interestingly enough, in my classroom there were thirty students and twenty of us were learning Greek as an optional language. Moreover, many schools in the North have a foreign languages week and the students are given a chance to sing and act in different languages including Greek. Can these students be antipathic towards the Greek? Of course not, for instance, it can easily be observed that Ledra street in the South is full of young Turkish students.

Greek Cypriots have optional Turkish courses too. However, I do question how beneficial they can be while there are “Oxi” signs on the school walls. I am fond of going to seminars all around the world, but I have to admit that I felt intimidated when I witnessed a large crowd of students in a Greek Cypriot university were all signing a petition against Turks in Cyprus. It is discouraging and having two or three students in each Turkish as a foreign language class has no effect on establishing close relations.

In addition, history lessons play a big role in solving the Cyprus issue. Heraclitus said, “you cannot swim in the same lake twice.” Nothing stays the same. Our thoughts and even our strong ideas can change every year. Thus, history can never guide us especially if it is all about wars and blood. The history books that are being taught in Greek and Turkish should be edited. Instead of trying to find who is right or wrong during the war period, only general Cyprus culture and world history should be emphasized. I personally do not think that perfectly memorizing how many people were killed during the war can contribute anything to further education.

In conclusion, reaching a solution does not seem impossible to me. Buying a book about Columbus’ discoveries rather than the wars in Cyprus would contribute more to having friendly relations. Besides, let us try a little bit to say “yasas” or “merhaba” from time to time.

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