Turkish Education Ministry adopts regulation for time off for Friday prayers
Gamze Kolcu – ANKARA
DHA photoThe Education Ministry has issued a circular in line with a recent legal change allowing public servants to attend Friday prayers without interrupting their office hours. According to the circular, schools across Turkey will be able to adjust their schedules and extend lunch-breaks for teachers.
However, some labor unions in the education sector have criticized the move, claiming that the circular is actually aimed at students rather than teachers.
Saying that teachers have long been able to attend Friday prayers without difficulty, the unions have suggested that the move will simply put pressure on students. As a result, they plan to take the circular to court next week.
“The circular that has been sent to schools should be withdrawn. We will file a complaint for its cancellation on Monday [Jan. 18]. We are a union that defends freedom of religion and faith, but we believe that a person who gives public service in an official field should not give this service according to faith or ethnic identity. This arrangement is an attack against scientific, secular and democratic education,” Veli Demir, the head of the teachers union Eğitim-İş, said on Jan. 14.
“Since teachers are role models, students will be influenced too,” Demir added.
According to Kamuran Karaca, the head of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen), public servants had not been prevented from attending Friday prayers anyway.
“The circular is against principles of a secular and social state governed by the rule of law. It is also planned according to one religion and one sect,” Karaca said.
“It is underlined that the circular is only about public servants, but the real target is students. Education institutions will be turned into houses of worship and there will be discrimination between those who attend and those who do not attend Friday prayers. Pressure will increase,” he added.
However, Eğitim-Bir-Sen, an education sector trade union known for its conservative views, has argued that the arrangement does not go far enough.
“In order for both teachers and students to make use of this regulation, there should be a one-hour break. Our students should also be able to perform Friday prayers,” said Latif Selvi, the deputy leader of Eğitim-Bir-Sen.
Unlike several other Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, officially Turkey uses the standard Monday-Friday working week employed in the West.