Preschool ‘values education’ stirs reaction
Rifat Başaran – ANKARAA newly-launched practice whereby civil servants from mufti offices provide “values education” to children has stirred reaction after a mother complained her child had expressed the desire to die because “heaven is beautiful.”
“Mother, I want to die. [They say] that one goes to heaven if they die before committing a sin and that heaven is really beautiful,” a five-year-old child enrolled at Gazi preschool in the southern Mersin province reportedly said.
Appalled by the child’s remarks, the family immediately scheduled meetings with the class teacher and the school principal and was informed of a newly-signed protocol between the mufti office in Mersin’s Yenişehir district and the district national education directorate.
The protocol foresees the teaching of a series of “values education” conferences at schools across Yenişehir by civil servants at the office of the mufti.
“Teachers said they also did not approve [of the conferences] but could not do anything against it. We protested against providing religious education to children without asking for their families’ consent beforehand,” the child’s mother, identified only with her initials E.K., told daily Hürriyet.
“This may be doable for older children but it is not right to confuse five-year-old children,” she added.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Mersin branch of teachers’ union Eğitim-İş, Hakan Boyar, questioned how civil servants with no pedagogical formation were permitted to teach.
“They say civil servant from the mufti’s office but who are these people, really? [They are] people with no pedagogical training. How can these officials from the mufti’s office teach preschool students?” he said, underlining that an understanding of abstract concepts only develop after 11 years of age.
“Such information is likely to have hardly recoverable consequences,” Boyar warned.
On the other hand, district director of national education Kamil Çelebiyılmaz said the issue was being investigated but claimed the matter was “presented in a different light by ill-intentioned people.”
“The discussion on heaven and death took place after a question. Teachers say nothing worrying had happened,” he claimed.
The office of the mufti said the conferences were organized specially for the “Holy Birth Week,” marking the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
“[They] did not talk about heaven specifically; however, when explaining our values, they said that people who do good and who are fair will both be good people in this life and go to heaven when the time comes for their death,” officials said.