First Ottoman public school celebrates 150th birthday
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The night was celebrated with a spectacular show composed by State Opera and Ballet Chief Director Yekta Kara, telling the story of the legendary school.The first public school of the Ottoman Empire, Darüşşafaka – as known as Daçka – marked its 150th year with a ceremony attended by a wide crowd of the school’s alumni, students and donors March 30.
The night was celebrated with a spectacular show composed by State Opera and Ballet Chief Director Yekta Kara, telling the story of the legendary school, which reached out to poor but talented young brains all around Turkey, using the background of world history over the last 150 years.
Since it was founded in 1863 the Darüşşafaka – meaning house of kindness – Foundation has provided full scholarships to orphans including clothing, accommodation, healthcare and food.
Darüşşafaka’s mission is to re-integrate disadvantaged children into society as intellectually sound and skilled young people. In that regard, it has been a success for Turkey’s education system.
The show told nearly 3,000 people the sad but encouraging story of the school during two world wars, economic and political turmoil and crises in Turkey and the region.
“Equality of opportunity in education” read the banners in Istanbul’s Haliç Congress Center.
Darüşşafaka Society chairman Zekeriya Yıldırım said that when their foundation was founded in 1863 there were no institutions defending the right to fair, good education like the United Nations or Unicef does.
“We are pursuing a modern management policy based on transparency, accountability and productivity,” Yıldırım added.
Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin and the Istanbul governor also attended the event and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also issued a celebration message yesterday.
Kılıçdaroğlu extended his respect to the foundation, which is “the symbol of modernity, fraternity, education, sharing and equality.”
Famous Turkish pop and jazz singer Fatih Erkoç also took the stage and performed a variety of songs from Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” to Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo.”
A school for the poor
Darüşşafaka Society is an umbrella organization for the Darüşşafaka education bodies, association and sport club.
During the founding years of the Darüşşafaka, many missionary schools were opened within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. At that time, the newly established Galatasaray High School shone as an educational institution for the children of the rich.
Ottoman Minister of Finance Yusuf Ziya Bey led the foundation of the Darüşşafaka under the name “Cemiyet-i Tedrise-i Islam” (Islamic Education Society), after he saw the misery as he passed through the streets of Babıali, the historical capital of the Turkish press.
Based on findings from research conducted by Vidinli Tevfik Paşa on European educational institutions, Yusuf Ziya Bey decided on the establishment of Darüşşafaka as a school. Many famous names of Turkish literature, such as poet Namık Kemal, provided voluntary lectures at the school.
Within the borders of the empire, the Darüşşafaka served a variety of students coming from different provinces and counties, especially from Anatolia. The school faced a financial crisis in 1903. The number of students increased from 400 to 700, despite the lack of money.
A group of students decided to boycott the headmaster and planned to organize a march to the Babıali. Sultan Abdülhamid II believed it was a revolt and immediately issued a directive for the closure of the school, asking that its control be passed on to the minister of education (Marif Nezareti) at the time. The first “public school,” established through the efforts of civil initiatives, was transformed into a state institution.
With the declaration of the İkinci Meşrutiyet (Constitutional Monarchy), graduates of the Darüşşafaka came together in 1908 to establish the Darüşşafaka Mezûnin Cemiyeti (Darüşşafaka Alumni Association). In 1953 the “Turk Okuma Kurumu” (Turkish Reading Institution) changed its name to the Darüşşafaka Association. The Darüşşafaka provides scholarships for the children of financially disadvantaged families every school year through nationwide entry exams.