Can Ali pass any exam in this poverty?

Can Ali pass any exam in this poverty?

Ali’s family spent an average of 1,095 Turkish Liras a month in 2015. From this total, only 4 liras (four liras) could be allocated monthly for Ali’s education. Of course Ali has dreams, but his family can only spare 40 kuruş for his education out of every 100 liras it spends. 

In contrast, Veli’s family spent an average of 7,151 liras monthly in 2015. From this total, 343 liras were allocated to his education. Of course Veli has dreams, and his family spends 4.8 liras for his education out of every 100 liras it spends. 

I wish all the success in life to Ali, who belongs to the lowest 10 percent in the income scale in Turkey, and also to Veli, who belongs to the top 10 percent. 

Research shows that there is a direct link between income level and exam results. 

In the central TEOG examination, for instance, for the academic year 2014-2015, there was an average difference of 22 points between rich and poor. We have to talk in segments of 10 percent because the official statistical approach does not reveal the situation of narrower segments.  

We know that tens of thousands of liras are paid annually to private schools. There are not many families who have the means to send their children abroad for education. 

At the beginning of this year we read about Mahir Gündoğdu from a village in the eastern district of Çemişgezek, who top-scored in the exam and was accepted to Istanbul’s top-rated Robert College. I was moved by that story, but Mahir’s success is a story of personal, miraculous heroism. There can only be very few similar stories. 

So are we going to attribute it to fate that Ali’s chances of achieving his dreams are much lower than Veli’s? Or are we going to be angry at Ali’s family for not allocating more money for Ali’s education? 

What can Ali’s family do? In September, the hunger threshold in Turkey was declared at 1,386 liras per month, while the poverty threshold was 4,515 liras. The minimum wage is 1,300 liras. 

The Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) recently shared the results of its 2015 Income and Living Conditions Survey. 

The picture shows that the top 20 percent of the population has 46.5 percent of the total income, while the lowest 20 percent has 6.1 percent of the income – a drop of 0.1 points. In 2015, only the top 20 percent saw an increase in their income share while the remaining 80 percent experienced a drop in their incomes. Some 14.7 percent of the population - corresponding to approximately 12 million people - are living under the poverty line. Some 67.9 percent of the country are in debt. The rate of those who cannot afford a week-long vacation is 71.4 percent.  

If we go back to Ali and Veli, the survey shows that 27.2 percent of illiterate people are classified as poor. Some 23.7 percent of those who have not finished any school are poor, while 12.8 percent of high school dropouts are poor. Only 5.6 percent of high school or equivalent graduates are poor, and only 1.6 percent of university graduates are poor.

On the one hand, there is much boasting in Turkey about economic achievements. On the other hand, there are Ali’s dreams.

Of course, the recent credit ratings cut of Moody’s may well be a political decision. But when Turkey’s income distribution is so unjust, and when the government tries to handle the situation with the cosmetic measures of social relief, this is not much of a help.

Let’s go past the figures. Ali has a tough life ahead. I would have told him to study hard to achieve his dreams but the quality of education in this country is also evident. 

What can I tell him? Should I refer to the reports that tell us the level of our high school students in reading and comprehension, mathematics and science is third from bottom in the OECD? 

Dearest Ali certainly does have a tough life ahead.