Petroula Antoniou

Primary Photo

Affiliated Organizations

What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

As a person living in Cyprus— a divided, conflict affected society — and as a second-generation refugee, I was always interested in issues of peace and reconciliation. I have a vision of a re-unified Cyprus, where all people will live peacefully. Based on this, I have been involved in several conflict resolution projects from a young age. Nowadays, as an elementary school teacher and a trainer for adults in the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, I work to build an understanding about how our choices can lead to peace. I strongly appreciate how one’s identity is intersectional and complex. In particular, existing stereotypes and prejudices are considered one of the most serious challenges in Cypriot education. What motivates me, is the people’s demand for a peaceful and fair society in respect to every single one’s traumas, hopes and aspirations.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

The most striking moment in my work was the moment when, during my PhD study, I conducted interviews with Greek Cypriot teachers and students. The research focused on the way the participants perceive the idea of “refugee” in the context of Cyprus. Moreover, the research examined the practices adopted in primary education to retain refugee consciousness for the younger generations. This was a very interesting and enlightening experience revealing the complexities of one’s identity, including his or her hidden traumas as well as his or her aspirations. This made me realize the importance of taking into account one’s memory and postmemory. By the term “postmemory”, I refer to the relationship that the “generation after the conflict event” bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before — to experiences they “remember” only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up. These experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and effectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. So, all you need is to give people space and voice to be heard.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

As a second-generation refugee in a post-conflict society, I have a personal interest in conflict resolution. This interest led me to PhD studies in the field of intercultural and peace education. Since 2007, I have worked at primary schools as a teacher, and since 2017 I am also an officer at the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute in the in-service training department. In 2010 I was based in Brussels, where I worked in the cabinet of the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. At the same time, I have been a researcher in many educational research projects in collaboration with distinct universities and NGOs from Cyprus, Greece and Great Britain.