Once again, all partners had a great experience in a foreign country.
We discovered a Cypriot sincere sense of hospitality which contributed to the success of this European Comenius meeting
Not two months after our trip to Sweden, we were travelling again, this time to the other side of Europe, towards our destination - the town of Latsia, a suburb of Nicosia in Cyprus. A lot of things were different this time. First of all, both the passengers and their luggage arrived together. The weather was warm, but not too hot; the nature similar to our coast in early August – browns and greens, palm trees scattered around, oleanders in blossom alongside the highway.
Nothing confused us more than the traffic, because Cyprus was a long-time English colony, so Cypriots drive on the wrong side of the road and have the driving wheel on the wrong side. Aside from that, roundabouts were a real adventure, and we got a helpful tip to look both ways when crossing the road. The second thing we haven't thought about was the shape of electrical outlets, which are also British. Thankfully, there are adapters, as well as advice including a pencil, which we decided to ignore.
Students were accomodated with the families of students working on the project, and our students from Veliki Bukovec stayed at their old friends whom they hosted in October. Teachers stayed at a student home/hotel opposite the new University building, their sleep undisturbed despite the fact that their neighoubrs were university students.
The school we visited, Latsia Gymnasium, has almost 600 students aged 12 to 15. In Cyprus, children aged 4 to 6 are required to attend preschool, then elementary school from ages 6 to 12 and gymnasium from 12 to 15, after which they choose a vocational school. After that they can go to the university, but boys must serve the army for two years before that. Gymnasiums are a transitional period after which students choose schooling according to their capabilities and results. Even though most teachers we talked to like this system, the headmistress stated since students come from different educational backgrounds, it is hard for teachers to work with such variety. We found out that a lot of students study aboard – in Greece, Great Britain, Italy, France.
Teachers, on the other hand, change schools every eight years. After they have worked in a school for seven years, they can ask for a transfer to another school or stay at the same one for another year, but the Ministry allocates them. If they work a long way from their home, they are given extra points and higher pay, but sometimes they just move.
The Ministry of Education of Cyprus gives points to schools which take part in national and international projects, so almost all schools implement projects. Latsia Gymnasium is currently taking part in two international projects and two projects with Greece. Almost all teachers are included in the project, and parents also help a lot by hosting students, helping with the transport, preparing the food for the guests... Everyone is friendly and ready to help, talkative and interested in talking about the guest countries. There seems to be a desire to help the guests feel welcome.
After the welcome show we felt flattered seeing how much effort our hosts put into it. They kept surprising us with activities promoting their country, from hosting the most famous Cypriot chef who made us traditional meals, visit to the Saint Nicholas church from the 11th century, picnic in a plane forest, to the sightseeing of several thousand years old excavations, 3rd century BC amphitheater and sea swimming. You can read all about our activities in a booklet prepared by our hosts.
Our main reason for visiting Cyprus, participation in the Comenius "Be Smart, Be Safe" project, took place in the morning hours and was divided between teachers and students. Students brought plenty of materials on mutual activities so far, but also on the activities related to the Safer Internet Day. They also prepared articles for the digital and printed magazine that will be one of the results of the project. They have collaborated in a workshop on e-safety and Internet ethics and spent two school lessons with Cypriot students (Greek and Old Greek).
A part of the afternoon was reserved for creative activities (sports, acting, dancing and graffitti drawing). Teachers were agreeing on publication of safer Internet resources which would be translated to English (and other partner languages) and worked on layout and content of the interdisciplinary module on Internet safety.
Veliki Bukovec Elementary school won the financial support of the Agency for Mobility and EU programs for a two-year Comenius project „Be Smart, Be Safe“ in which students from Croatia, France, Italy, Sweden and Cyprus are participating.
The project includes around 1500 students aged 10 to 15, their teachers, parents and their local communities. Its aim is to raise awareness on negative and positive sides of Internet use, enable them to use Internet in an appropriate, responsible and safe way, make changes intercurricular teaching of safer Internet use, enable students to take part in international projects and help them meet, communicate and cooperate with their peers from different European countries.
Three mobilities have took place so far – Croatia hosted the first, October 24th to 27th; we were in Sweden from March 23rd to 28th and in Cyprus May 13th to 18th.
18th Μay, Sunday, early in the morning. We have already received the first emails from our friends, informing us that they have arrived home safe and sound.
How fast time really goes! As if it was yesterday that we anticipated eagerly to welcome all the missions at the airport with the grand Cypriot hospitality. Through a programme made with yearning and love we travelled our guests from Croatia, Sweden, France and Italy in the world and place of Cyprus.
The welcoming ceremony which was dedicated on traditional festivals, gave us on one hand the chance to get to know the culture of the countries of our partner schools; and on the other to show our traditional festivals. The music and dancing part of the programme loosen up the hands to join in and lead the dance; bringing us all nearer.
The workshops that were organized by the members of the Cyprus Comenius committee in cooperation with the national organisation for Internet Safety-Cyberethics-contributed in: a) integrating the works of the programme; b) the production of material for the newspaper of the programme; and c) informing, questioning and exchanging ideas mostly among students and teachers.
The daily timetable was enriched by creative and recreational activities. A theatrical workshop, a graffiti on a wall in the school yard, folk dancing, and futsal early in the morning, were the kick off for each day ahead. The afternoon walk in Nicosia was a chance to talk with our partners, inform them about the division of our island and bring out the Cyprus problem. The laughter and teasing of our large company filled the narrow streets of Nicosia and travelled up to Platania and the picturesque Kakopetria; where we enjoyed our coffee. The sea breeze in Limassol and the magnificent view from Kourio made us all speechless; the refreshing swim in the Mediterranean Sea was surely one of the best moment of the meeting in Cyprus.
If words are enough to capture activities; then only smiles and tears are able to describe the memories that filled our hearts and souls.
During our visit to Sweden last March, the students created advice booklets for teenagers and parents on the Internet Safety issues we have analyzed during the project, thus showing what they learnt.
Here are the produced boklets
Is May the most beautiful month in Cyprus? I'm not sure if everyone thinks so but to us, the Swedish team, the week in mid May 2013 - hosted by our partners at Latsia Gymnasium - was extraordinary in many ways. The scenery took our breath away, as did the Cypriot hospitality. Regardless of the difficulties Cyprus is facing within the financial sector, the way the people living on this island meet their guests remains the same: the warmth challenges that of the Mediterranean sun.
The Be Smart, Be Safe project focuses on smart and safe Internet use; an important part of this is making connections across the borders that are in many cases just arbitrary lines drawn on a map. I am certain that the physical, positive relations between people in different countries also transfer to much needed positive attitude and friendly tone in the virtual world.
One of the most important parts of international collaboration projects such as ours is, of course, the invaluable experience the students get from taking part in the everyday life of the host families. Our students were overwhelmed by the caring response of their hosts and - according to what I've heard so far! - it seems the Swedish students also behaved reasonably well :)
Once again, a very warm thank you to the Cyprus host families, the students, teachers and the parents!
The second Tuesday of February has been established by the European Site of National Information and Vigilance Centre INSAFE as the day of Safe Internet. The Network INSAFE deals with different sides of the Internet: from Cyber bullying to the phenomenon of social networking and the convergence of generations. This year a special subject of great importance was chosen: “Online rights and responsibilities”.
Since our school has been actively involved in safe surfing the Net through the Comenius programme “besmart , besafe ”it was inevitable to take part in the event of this particular day. A group of students-members of the Comenius programme-presented successfully their work in a small event.
Thestudents -membersof the Comenius programme reminded their fellow students that as we likewise face problems in our everyday life we also do so when surfing the Internet The responsibilities and the obligations of every pc user and internet surfer as well as the role of adults in protecting teenagers in their Internet life, were also presented through the use of two videos. . Therefore, we must be informed in advance and always be ready to deal with them.
In addition, during the event, our students presented two songs, which they themselves have written and composed, illustrating their own fears and worries of the cyberworld. Through the lyrics of these songs they urged the users to be smart, to be safe/ ‘be smart, be safe’.