Saturday, September 18, 2010

Egitim-Sen supports boycott action against schools

Boycotting schools to draw attention to the right to be educated in one's mother tongue. This is the aim of the action planned by the Kurdish Education and Language Movement (TZP). The action, scheduled between 20 to 25 September is getting support from many other associations, trade unions, students and parents. The boycotting action will involved not sending the children to school for those 5 days.

Remzi Azizoğlu, chairman of the Kurdish Language Association (Kurdi-Der), a TZP affiliate, said in Diyarbakır that Kurds have for many years been demanding that they be given the right to be educated in their mother tongue and added that “we say, if you won’t solve this problem, then we will take the initiative to do so. We decided on this as part of Democratic Autonomy”.

Democratic Autonomy is the model proposed by both the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan and the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party). It envisages greater powers being granted to regional governments, including establishing local parliaments in the regions and having a separate flag.

BDP has said they will support the boycott decision taken by TZP-Kurdi, while education minister Nimet Çubukçu has already condemned the planned action, warning that parents could be punished for failing to send their children to school. In a written statement she says that “education is a constitutional right and [violating this right] is a misuse of parental rights”. The minister deliberately ignored the right to be educated in one's mother tongue.

TZP-Kurdi launched its campaign with the slogan, "We want education in our mother tongue." By law, public schools in Turkey can only educate students in Turkish, the country's sole official language.

TZP-Kurdi posted signs promoting a Kurdish language education system on billboards around Diyarbakır, in both Kurmanji and Zazaki.

BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş saying that his party is supporting TZP-Kurdi added that "it is meaningful that people who want education in their mother tongue engage in civil disobedience by not sending their children to school for the first five days of the new school year". Demirtaş also said that "we will call for support of the campaign as BDP. I will not send my child to school for the first five days either, because I want my child to be educated in our mother tongue".

Among the supporter of the boycott action is Egitim-Sen, the education trade union. “The education problems have reached a dramatic level - says general president Zübeyde Kılıç - Although article 42 of the Constitution states that nobody can be deprived of their education rights, here it doesn’t work like that. It is a matter of constitutional infringement in education area. One of the main problems we faced one more with the last KPSS (Public Personnel Selection Examination) scandal, is that the education is surrounded by examinations. This situation is closely associated with the marketing mentality. The examinations brought along  private teaching institution sector. The working capital in private teaching institution sector has many times exceeded the budget of national education. While the examinations are on one hand making away with being scientific, they are on the other hand supporting the marketing mentality.”


Pointing also at teacher openings, Zübeyde Kılıç remarked that there are much serious problems about raising teachers, adding; “ While there are qualification matters in the process of raising teachers on one side, we are in a process with a substantial growth in unemployment on the other side. A great majority of teacher candidates are not able to do their jobs, which is a result of the wrong policies of Ministry of Education.” Stating that education workers are also exposed to inhuman working conditions, Kılıç showed the unsecured employment as one of the main problems of the process, adding; “ For example, in KPSS scandal, the first solution of Ministry of Education is to take unpaid teachers, which means confining them to slavish working conditions. Again with the amendment planned on the law no.657, teachers, like all other public workers, are planned to be left deprived of their job securities.”


“This right can’t be commented in different ways with the paranoias and excuses of the existing political situation of the country. We, educators know that a child who doesn’t have his/her education in mother tongue, will be inadequate in education process. So, they will have difficulties in understanding, perceiving and expressing themselves in a serious inequality process. we will certainly not accept that.”

Remarking that Eğitim Sen has been defending mother language education for many years now, Kılıç spoke as follows; “However, there are no steps taken in this particular. While the process is progressing so unsolvable and insensitive, it is not right to review the concerning democratic reflection with some partition paranoia as “What's this all about?”

Kılıç mentioned that the obstacles, which prevent all identities and cultures in Turkey from seeing and expressing themselves as equal citizens, must be removed with a new, democratic and pluralist constitution; just as the society demands. Underlining that mother language education is possible in Turkey as in many other places of the world, Kılıç added that Eğitim Sen can share all its study reports, devices and methods on the issue with those concerned if a step is taken in this respect.


Concerning Minister of Education Nimet Çubukçu’s “Legal action will be taken against parents who don’t send their children to school” threat respond to the education boycott act, Zübeyde Kılıç spoke as follows;

“The threats by the minister have become a routine attitude. She had previously threatened contracted teachers with scrapping their contracts. The minister is supposed to do the necessary for them and develop an attitude and manner in accordance with the global education principles, rather than threatening. The minister must remember of the constitution and rights every time, not only at the points that serve the purpose. For example; despite the ‘primary education is compulsory and free’ article of the constitution, a great majority of children are not able to attend primary schools due to narrow circumstances. We would expect a minister that takes a week’s boycott as a knock on education to show sensitivity about these children and to have a permanent solution. Kurdish children in particular, a considerable part of children are out of the schooling rate. According to minister’s own statements, 140 thousands of children couldn’t even enroll in a school in 2009-2010 school year. The rate of dropouts is also quite high in primary school. The minister must think hard  about such issues and take permanent precautions.”

(Kılıç remarks translated by Berna Ozgencil)