Yerkir Media TV's episode on Armenian education in Cyprus
The episode (which is part 4 from a series of episode dedicated to the Armenian in Cyprus) focuses on the educational life in the Cyprus Armenian community. It gives a brief history of the Armenian schools in Cyprus starting from the end of 19th century until today. Main Armenian schools, religious establishments and monastic complex (Makaravank) remain now half-destroyed under Turkish control in the occupied part of Cyprus, including the Armenian neighbourhood in the occupied Nicosia.
The current needs of the Armenian students are covered by Narek Schools in three cities in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaka). Six years ago Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) which was the only Armenian boarding high school in Europe was closed. After a tour in the Institution the episode interviews Vartan Tashjian, a former teacher in the Institute who expresses his grief for the closure decision.
Vicken Kestenian, AGBU representative in Cyprus admits that “forces stronger than us compelled the closure of the Institution. This was a decision taken by the AGBU's Central Board in New York. We are sad for the closure because the main damage came to AGBU's chapter here in Cyprus”. The closure created a wave of protest in Cyprus and worldwide. The government of Cyprus decided not to allow any selling of Melkonian related property. The park surrounding the premises, cultivated for decades by Armenian students, was protected by the municipality.
Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian of Cyprus underlines that the closure of Melkonian has been a big lose for the community, its identity and cultural heritage. “When we close a school, it means we get weaker”, he states.
Narek school (with its current name) was originally established in 1902, but its history goes back to 1897. After the closure of MEI, Narek Schools were upgraded from elementary to intermediate level. They have 185 students in the three schools.
“After graduation from Narek the students have a wide range of choices to continue their education. We have graduates who occupy important positions in society, both in private and public sectors”, says Vera Tahmazian, Director of the Narek Schools. Education is in three languages, Armenian, Greek and English. Recently the celebration hall of Narek school was renovated by the help of the government and was opened in May 2011 with the presence of Cyprus Education Minister. “With Armenia unfortunately there is the issue of Western and Eastern Armenian. We cannot use the textbooks from Armenia. We talked recently with Nune Vartanian an official from the Ministry of Education in Armenia who was visiting Cyprus and she promised that there would be quality translations from Eastern Armenian to Western Armenian for history and geography books that we are much in need here”, she says.
After Narek, the students and their parents are in front of dilemma regarding choosing the secondary school. A choice should be made between the English and Greek educational systems. Here again becomes clear the damage that the closure of Melkonian has caused to the community.
“When our students visit Armenia and see the locations they learn about in their textbooks, their Armenian identity is consolidated. We would like to arrange visits of our students to schools in Armenia and direct contacts with local students there”, says Tahmazian.
The Government of Cyprus has undertaken great role in the defence of Western Armenian. It has supported the opening of Western Armenian teaching course in the University of Cyprus. “This entry level course is for adults who want to learn Armenian. It aims at creating the Chair of Armenian Studies in the future” says Violet Tashjian an ex-teacher in Melkonian. She is happy that Armenian language is now accessible to non-Armenians too. “Through the language and literature a new world of identity seeking is created for our generations. They take humanistic and national values through language and literature”, she says. “Melkonian was a miniature of the Armenian world bringing together Armenians from Lebanon, Artsakh, Armenia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and elsewhere”, she observed in a nostalgic tone.
“Cyprus Armenians are determined to keep their national language. They will fight to create opportunities for higher education in Armenian”, concludes the episode.
Yerkir Media's episode on Cyprus Armenian educational life
Director: Mariana Paityan
Editor: Ruzan Arakelyan
Operator: Gor Honhannisyan