18 million children head to school in Turkey
ANKARA / ERZİNCAN
DHA photoMore than 18 million pupils headed to schools across Turkey for the new semester on Sept. 19, with some 1.4 million of them taking their first steps into primary school.
Municipalities in big cities took extra measures for the first day of school, with Istanbul busses offering free travel to all.
The foiled coup attempt on July 15 put its mark to this year’s school opening, as questions also lingered over whether any shortage in teachers would emerge after tens of thousands of public employees were suspended over alleged links to the followers of Fethullah Gülen, the main suspect behind the plot.
Some 11,500 teachers were also suspended for suspected links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with a government decree under the state of emergency declared after the coup plot.
However, there would be no insufficiency in teachers, a confident Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said.
“There are no problems with the number of teachers,” he said, while speaking at a school year opening ceremony in the eastern province of Erzincan, where he and his wife, Semiha Yıldırım, joined a class. The total number of suspended teachers exceeds 28,000.
Yıldırım called on teachers to show no tolerance to their colleagues who were linked to either Gülenists or the PKK.
Students arriving at school on the first day were handed pamphlets from the Education Ministry commemorating “the triumph of democracy on July 15 and in memory of the martyrs” in addition to their usual schoolbooks.
Pupils were shown two videos about the coup attempt, including footage of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reading a poem alongside images from the night of the coup showing tanks and war planes firing in the capital Ankara.
One video showed the moment when people took to the streets by the thousands in Istanbul and Ankara to counter the coup attempt.
In schoolyards, students observed a minute of silence for the victims and a prayer was said.
Children in an elementary school in the northwestern province of Bursa staged a play reenacting the coup attempt.
The play was staged at Orhanbey Elementary School in the Osmangazi district of the province, Doğan News Agency reported on Sept. 19.
Some of the students in the school dressed as coup plotting soldiers and some acted as the citizens who took to the streets to stop the plotters. The latter group of students carried Turkish flags in their hands.
“The traitors wanted to steal the future of our children. However, with the stance of the people, they couldn’t reach their treacherous aims,” the school’s principal, Hilmi Sevim, told the students, their parents and teachers.
The students then attended their classes.
Turkey’s Education Ministry will destroy textbooks written by the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Gülen, believed to have been behind the July 15 failed coup attempt. The textbooks will be recycled, according to daily Milliyet.
Turkey is one of the countries with the lowest spending per student, according to a report prepared by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report titled “Education at a Glance 2016” stated that Turkey’s public expenditures for primary and secondary education were below the OECD average.
Some 7 million people above the age of 15 are illiterate in Turkey, according to statistics released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to mark the 50th International Literacy Day on Sept. 8. The number corresponds to nearly one-eleventh of Turkey’s population, which is nearly 79 million.