Proud of Pancyprian Gymnasium, God Bless my Teachers!!! 


Going to secondary school was the beginning of a successful life or a failed one. There was no other way for me and my father who knew better. After all, I was only twelve years old living all my life in a village and depending 100% on my parents. What did I know about the world, about life, about what to get a job meant? No idea!!!

Thus September 1959 arrived and as I described earlier life was going to school on my dad’s bus and coming back to the village after two in the afternoon. School lasted until 1.00 pm or 2.00pm. The teachers were very strict, the uniform was very befitting and I was proudly a student of the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, the beacon of secondary schools in Cyprus. I was happy to go but scared to be examined in any lesson and sitting a test. That was partially lifted once the school was finished and I could buy a sweet from the vendors outside the school. oh, how much I wish I could have a “poureki tou Kotsiou” right now. That was a kind of sweet dipped in honey and sugar that even now I am writing about it, I am salivating. Sweet Cyprus, sweet home!!

I thought I was clever when in the village and in my class. Little did I know about others. Quickly I realised that I could not speak properly Greek, mine was the Cyprus idiom, I could not read well and with meaning and my Maths, I was really good in Maths, was nowhere to shine among forty others equally intelligent as myself. Thus the first term was over and a report was due for my dad to see and praise me.

The Report

We all need praise, no matter how small the effort is, no matter what the item or act it is to be praised. I saw the report first, if I remember correctly or my dad brought it home. I am confused about it after sixty years. That is not important. What follows is the important matter.

The hell came home and shouted: Where is this bast…….? Where is he for me to kill him?
My mother tried to pacify him but then he walked into the room where I was studying and started the insulting and questioning:

You, cann’t you speak Greek? Cant you write Greek? You have nine out of twenty in Greek? Are you speechless? What could I say when the teacher did not like my reading and my essays? They were indeed poor! I was doing badly!

You, idiot! Can’t you add numbers and do Maths? What has happened to you?

You, you don’t know history? nine in history?

I am going to kill you!!!

I tried to justify everything but it was to no avail. I basically had four subjects below the acceptable pass and four at ten. All the main subjects, I did as bad as I could. It was a shock to the system, it was a new beginning and I was still in the process of learning how to be a student of some ability, knowing now that what happened in the class was not enough. I had to rehearse the text books and learned them by heart!! Yes, by heart!!

I had to recite my history lesson, yes by heart. I had to write better essays that needed more reading and more effort and I had to concentrate in Maths because I made a stupid mistake in a test and I got nine instead of twenty. All in all my report was shouting at me :

Stupid, idiot, incompetent!!

My father finished his diatribe, yes his insults with a warning:

You bring me these grades again in March and I will kill, you pezev……!!!

Needless to say that my grades improved dramatically by March and by the end of the year they became very good. The shock of the peasant boy was immense in the beginning of my six years at the Gymnasium but perhaps I needed that to wake up to reality in a new cycle of education.

The years went by and it was December 1963 when the intercommunal troubles started and the “Governor”, a student leader we named the governor,  ordered us all out of the school to demonstrate against the Turks. That was the beginning of separation and the change of everything in Cyprus……

Divide and Rule raised its ugly head…..

Peter Constant

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