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When Sakis met Aleka: 'unnecessary' fuss over pun in school textbook.

By Andria Kades

A PURPORTED love interest between a teenage girl aged 15-16 and a man aged between 20-25 depicted in a high school textbook caused outrage on Friday with media and state officials, who branded the text paedophilic, some nine years after it was published.

The offending text describes the relationship between Sakis the electrician and Aleka, and is meant to introduce students to homonym -- i.e. words pronounced the same but having different meanings.

The story, found in a Greek-language first year high school textbook, is about a teacher who is trying to teach his female pupils the meaning of "osakis", a rarely-used Greek word for "whenever".

The girls in the story, however, keep giggling and repeating the words "o Sakis, o Sakis", which the teacher took to mean that they were inspired by the obsolete word.

But it was not "osakis" that inspired the girls, the story revealed.

"Sakis was an electrician at a shop. He was older than them, aged 20 to 25. He was going out with Aleka, one of the pupils in the class. Tall and thin, with short, blond, hair and large hazel eyes, a long neck and long arms and legs, somewhat skinny but tough," the text said.

"At 15-16 like the rest of them, she was the first one who has been dating dates for months. Sakis waited for her during lunch at the other corner and the other pupils would run behind her to see him. The comments went back and forth. This was the class' first love."

Web-based news outlet Livenews, which reported the story first, branded the text "paedophile material".

Special advisor to the Ad hoc ministerial committee implementing a national strategy against child sexual abuse and child pornography, Anastasia Papadopoulou, said the message could have still been conveyed if the male character were aged 17, which would have negated any implication of paedophilia.

In a post on her Facebook page, Papadopoulou chose to "not comment" on the fact that the girl's physical description was included, instead questioning what her thin frame contributed to a lesson on puns.

"Is the lesson on 'puns' somehow stengthened by promoting the criminal activity of paedophilia as something normal, cute and innocent?"

Following the controversy, the ministry of education issued a statement saying that when the lesson is delivered to the pupils, the point of discussion is not the relationship but the pun.

"The secondary education administration considers this an exaggerated and unnecessary noise," it said, noting that the book has been used in classrooms since 2006.

DIKO said this issue came up at a time when abuse of minors incidents are on the rise.

NGOs are trying to combat the issue, as is Papadopoulou's Ad hoc committee, and the text subject matter is inappropriate to say the least, the party said.

It urged the education ministry to remove it, adding that the messages the youth received through education can influence their behaviour and choices later in life.

Some commentators, however, deemed the reaction puritanical and said the education ministry should be focusing on far more important things, such as boosting the quality of lessons like maths and technology.

One was sarcastic, saying the books should be burned in public and female students should have their heads covered with a scarf.

References were also made to grandparents that got married at similar ages as those described in the "controversial" text and lived an enviable life, while others were up in arms about the text, saying books from Greece should be banned and that the material went against law and ethics.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Nov 6, 2015
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