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Türkei südostanatolische Stadt Hakkari - Grundschule
Image: DW/A.E. Duran

Turkey struggles with teacher suspensions

October 3, 2016

Turkey's education system is suffering since the attempted coup, with huge numbers of teachers suspended as a result.


The attempted coup in Turkey on July 15 is having serious consequences for the Turkish education system. Over the past two months President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has, according to its own reports, suspended around 50,000 teachers and 2,349 academics from the public and private sectors. For this reason, hundreds of schools have been suffering from a shortage of teachers since they reopened in mid-September.

And it's not only teachers with alleged links to the FETO organization (supposed terror organizations associated with Fethullah Gulen) who are being suspended. Left-leaning teachers who are sympathetic to the opposition and members of the Education and Science Workers Union, Egitim Sen, have also been affected. They are accused of having taken part in the demonstrations for peace on December 21 and 29 of last year. According to the government, the aim of these events was "to help the PKK."

Empty schoolyards in Van

In regions in eastern Turkey, where there is a large Kurdish population, a particularly high number of teachers have been suspended. 4,285 people are affected in Diyarbakir alone. The start of the new school year in the province in the far east of Turkey was extremely problematic. Some 765 teachers have been suspended there since the coup attempt.

Türkei Blick auf ostanatolische Stadt Van
People in the eastern Anatolian city of Van have yet to recover from the bombings three weeks agoImage: DW/A.E. Duran

In recent years, the population of Van, a center for tourism and commerce, has increased dramatically, as many people move to the city. Right now, though, it is unusually silent. Van has not yet recovered from the shock of the bombing in mid-September at the building that houses Erdogan's governing party, the AKP.

After officials with close ties to the government were appointed in four of the city administrations governed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the Kurdish PKK carried out the bomb attack in the center of town. At least 48 people were injured. Since then, local residents have been scared. Traces of the attack are still visible on the AKP building.

People fear another attack, and they are also concerned about the lack of teachers. This is why many families are not sending their children to school, as can be seen from the empty schoolyards in the town center. Missed lessons mean that there will be gaps in the children's schooling.

"We live in a region where school education is already poor. Now our children are falling even further behind compared to children in the West," one parent complains. Another parent, whose children are in the fourth grade, says that even if the teachers were to be replaced, they would still have misgivings about sending their child to school: "How can my child go to school when bombs are exploding in the center of town?"

Türkei Stadt Van - AKP Parteigebäude, Spuren von Anschlag
On September 12 a car bomb went off in front of the headquarters of the governing AKP partyImage: DW/A.E. Duran

Suspended - now what?

The situation for the teachers is no less problematic. Their sudden suspension has financial implications for their families. Families in which both partners are teachers, and both have been suspended, are particularly hard hit. One of the affected teachers, who didn't want to give his name, told DW: "Now we can't pay the debts for the furniture we bought last year. Our child was attending nursery. We've had to take him out, because we couldn't pay the fees." Many teacher families in Van have the same problem.

Gulcan Korkmaz Sagyigit is the president of the Egitim Sen union in Van. She believes that what lies behind the suspension of the teachers in her union is the government's determination to silence opposition groups. She too has been suspended. "They've suspended us because we took part in a demonstration, for one day. We were accused of 'neglecting education.' Our pupils' education has been neglected for weeks because of the lack of teachers. Is that our fault, too?" Sagyigit asks.

The government is now preparing to transfer 20,000 contracted teachers on October 10, in order to make up for the lack of teachers, which they themselves have caused. Critics see it as an attempt to fill posts with civil servants from the ranks of the AKP.

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