Turkey's minority schools’ problems inquired

Turkey's minority schools’ problems inquired

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkeys minority schools’ problems inquired

This file photo shows students from an Armenian minority school in Istanbul. Hürriyet photo

A group of academics, spearheaded by the History Foundation, have launched an initiative to investigate the problems faced by 23 minority schools across Istanbul.

While 15 of the schools belong to the Armenian community, five are Greek and one is a Jewish school, officials said. Among the major problems are the status of guest students, the lack of class material and teachers, and regulations regarding who can attend which school.

“We want to show how [these] problems came about. They are all artificial problems that have to do with foreign politics and the [prevalent] attitude toward minorities,” legal expert Nurcan Kaya, the project’s researcher and writer, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Rum (Anatolian Greek) schools are permitted to bring in teachers and class materials from Greece in accordance with a cultural agreement signed between Turkey and Greece, Kaya explained. 

“This [arrangement,] however, turned into a means to mutually inflict cruelty on schools at various times due to the Cyprus problem in the past. There is also the problem of western Thrace,” she said.
The Jewish school, on the other hand, has the same status as Turkish Anatolian high schools and its 
language of instruction is both Turkish and English, Kaya said, adding that the school offered Hebrew classes as well. 

“Armenian schools have to meet all their needs by themselves, unlike the other schools. They have no departments to train Armenian language teachers and have to acquire their education material on their own,” Kaya said. 

Regulations concerning private schools in Turkey and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne allow only Turkish citizens to attend minority schools. However, the clause stipulating that only children holding Turkish citizenship can attend their own minority community’s schools was recently scrapped, in new regulations that appeared in the Official Gazette on March 20. The new regulations lead to perplexity among some educators.

“It is an important step, but with no practical consequences. Children from Armenia and Greece still cannot go to school,” said Kaya. 

Despite the hopes raised by the amendment to the regulations, the children of Greek citizens and illegal Armenian immigrants residing in Istanbul still have only restricted access to education in minority schools, which they can attend only as “guest students.”