NICOSIA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) — Cyprus Education Minister Kostas Champiaouris said on Saturday there will be zero tolerance for racism, after a Muslim girl pupil was sent out of school for wearing a headscarf.
The minister said a probe into the school headmaster’ action would be ready on Monday. Should misconduct was established he would be disciplined.
The incident, which happened at the start of the new school year on Friday, when pupils attended classes for the first time, caused a public outcry over the conduct of the school headmaster.
The headmaster’s behavior was condemned by Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba, who told the state radio that his action was a “glaring incidence of racism.” All political parties, except a small extreme right party, issued statements condemning the incident.
The pupil, who comes from Syria, was escorted out of school at the instruction of the headmaster. She comes from Syria and has been living in Cyprus with her family for the past five years.
“The Education Ministry will show zero tolerance to racist and xenophobic behaviors,” said the minister.
He added that he would contact the family of the pupil within the day to apologize for the behavior of the schoolmaster.
The union of secondary school teachers also deplored the behavior of the headmaster, saying his action was inexcusable.
Pupils at the school in Nicosia where the incident took place called for abstention from classes on Monday in protest against the headmaster whom they called “conservative and racist”. They said the protest should continue until he is removed from his post.
Cyprus has a large concentration of refugees and immigrants, mostly coming from war-torn Syria. They make up about 4 percent of the less than a million population of the eastern Mediterranean island. Some schools in areas with a high population of refugees have a very high ratio of foreign students.
Children of school age attend classes in schools where the teaching language is Greek.
The government has repeatedly called on European Union (EU) to devise a plan for an equitable distribution of refugees and immigrants among member states, saying the country has the highest ratio of refugees, relative to its population, among EU member countries.
The incident came at a time when a public debate is going on, on whether to amend regulations requiring pupils to wear a school attire or allow them to go to school wearing whatever they like.