What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?
Growing up in Cyprus in the 1980s, I found myself internalizing as a child the dominant nationalistic narrative of my social environment. As an anthropology student, I started reading independently and along with my studies I was able to challenge the nationalistic narratives previously imposed on me as a child. Today, I feel that I have the responsibility as an adult to provide younger generations a society that is reproducing an inclusive sense of belonging that allows people to thrive independently from their cultural, national and religious background. My life choices as an adult are driven by this need. I am a Lecturer at the University of Nicosia and I try to incorporate in my teaching theories and content that challenge the reproduction of fixed and monolithic identities. In addition, I am the co-founder of the first primary school in Cyprus which has peace education as one of its basic pillars. Morningside Montessori Primary School creates the conditions for co-learning in a space that is not identity-based but human-based.
What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?
It is difficult to choose one moment. I guess what is more noteworthy for me, is the fact that children at Morningside Montessori have already surpassed the fixation that we, older generations have on monolithic identities. They interact with their friends at school based on their personality traits and not on their national or religious identity. It is this everyday simplicity that amazes me.
How and why did you start working in peace education?
My interest in peace building and particularly Peace Education started when I was a bachelor student in Sociology. Today, with my capacity as a Lecturer at the University of Nicosia, I try to influence young students to think outside of the box and develop the necessary analytical skills which will allow them to deconstruct the nationalistic notions imposed upon them. In addition, I am interested in peace education with my capacity as Board Director and founder of Morningside Montessori Elementary School, which is the first school in Cyprus aiming to promote grassroot changes in society and genuine egalitarian dialogue among future citizens of the world. At the heart of our program is peace education, as an essential element of Montessori method. Maria Montessori was one of the first and pioneer peace educators of her time, who supported that "establishing long lasting peace is the work of education, all politics can do is keep us out of war". We truly believe that the Montessori method creates the context in which children learn to solve minor interpersonal conflicts, discuss their community affairs and identify solutions to their problems. Along with the Peace Education program that is already embedded in the Montessori philosophy itself, the trilingual aspect of the school provides the children the communication tools to break any barriers that may exist between them. English is used as the main language of instruction and children are being taught Greek and Turkish as well. That means that Greek speakers learn Turkish and Turkish speakers learn Greek. This allows communication to thrive between them and promotes further cultural integration among children. In this context, religion is being approached from a cultural perspective and history is being contextualized, in order to allow multiple voices to be heard and comprehended.