The Turkish government has given a 300% increase in funding to the Maarif Foundation which was set up to compete with schools allegedly run by Fethullah Gulen and his followers.
A presidential decree was published in the Official Gazette this week, granting the foundation an annual budget of EUR 140 million. This will come from the country’s budget that is allocated for education. This has resulted in significant criticism in Turkey as many noted that the country’s education system is suffering under the strain of COVID-19.
Head of the Union of Labourers in Education and Science, Orhan Yildirim told Turkish daily Cumhuriyet that this means many students will struggle to meet their learning goals.
“All the financial resources spared for the Maarif Foundation mean that the needs of millions of families and students who continue their lives in economic hardship will be transferred elsewhere.
The MEB has not provided computers, tablets or the internet for students doing distance learning (in the pandemic) but shares this huge amount of budget money with the Maarif. This is the hand of the state seizing the rights of our children,” he said.
The Turkish government and President Erdogan have accused Fethullah Gulen and his followers of masterminding the 2006 failed coup attempt in 2016. Following this, he arrested and imprisoned thousands of teachers, journalists, activists, and civil servants who he accused of being involved.
In Albania, the Turkish government has applied pressure to close Turkish run or affiliated schools and forcibly deport alleged Gulenists. This has resulted in what the United Nations referred to as “extraterritorial abductions and forced disappearance of Turkish citizens” which Albania is complicit in.
The Turgut Ozal schools were raided by police at the end of last year. Teachers said that several campuses were raided at once and officers forcibly entered without a warrant, photographed students and seized parent and student lists. They filed criminal charges against the police as a result.
Teachers spoke to Exit about fearing for their lives and concerns about being followed.
The Maarif Foundation was set up a month before the coup and now has 353 educational institutions in 67 countries around the world. This includes five schools and a university in Albania.