Education bill ignites fistfights in Parliament

Education bill ignites fistfights in Parliament

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Education bill ignites fistfights in Parliament

Education Minister Ömer Dinçer speaks to reporters before the inauguratin ceremony of an EU-funded project aimed at increasing the schooling rate among girls. AA photo

Long-running tensions over the controversial education bill degenerated into fistfights yesterday in Parliament’s Education Commission when a ruling party advisor punched an opposition deputy.

The incident broke out on the fourth day of stormy debates on the bill after Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies stood up and raised objections to Commission Chairman Nabi Avcı, closing discussions on the third article of the draft.

The advisor of Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy Hakan Şükür punched CHP deputy Haydar Akar, prompting the other CHP members to run to Akar’s defense.

AKP deputies were barely able to drag the advisor, Resul Baydak, out of the meeting room. Commission head Avcı then called a two-hour recess to defuse the tension.

Akar filed a criminal complaint against Baydak, who was also asked to give a statement by Parliament’s security.

CHP Group Deputy Chairman Muharrem İnce condemned the AKP, charging that “violence used against students and laborers in street demonstrations has made its way to Parliament.” İnce renewed a call for the AKP to pull back and revise the bill.

Şükür, the former football star, defended his advisor, claiming he was trying to assist him in leaving the hall when he was “pushed aside by three or four people, who then played the victim.” Baydak will also file a complaint, he said.

Education Minister Ömer Dinçer played down the CHP calls for a compromise on the education bill, saying that the main opposition had proposed nothing but the withdrawal of the bill.
In comments on one of the most controversial provisions, he stressed that students would not be allowed to freely choose home study, and that Cabinet would determine the “exceptions.” He also said no decision had been made for the elective courses to include the Kurdish language.

Fresh education reform
Speaking during a visit to a textile factory in Istanbul, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu insisted that pedagogues, academicians and non-governmental organizations should come together and draw up a fresh education reform plan.

“It is not the business of politicians. We are not imposing anything on the government. We are just offering to establish a commission on the issue, but obviously the AKP is far away from compromise,” he said.

Earlier, Dinçer inaugurated an EU-funded project worth 16 million euros aimed at increasing the schooling rate among girls. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül were featured in TV spots for the campaign, both calling on parents to educate their daughters and provide them with a profession.

The project will start in 16 pilot provinces, mostly in the east, where less than 50 percent of girls are enrolled in high schools, Dinçer said. “It’s a great loss that thousands of girls quit school after eight years [of compulsory education]. We will lend support in this field through the allocation of funds, free transport, increasing the capacity of girls’ boarding houses and educating parents,” he said, adding that the campaign would be followed by two similar EU-funded projects.