In 2013 I was fortunate to have a visiting scholar from Turkey work with me at the University of Nottingham. As with all such experiences, I learned a good deal. In particular I gained a better understanding of the threats to democracy in Turkey at the current time, and the particular challenges for educators working in Turkish schools and universities. I have blogged about my own experiences of visiting Istanbul, and seeing first hand how the police were being used to crush peaceful protest and dissent. More recently, my friend and colleague from Turkey sent me the following material as a guest blog. Today, International Women’s Day, seems like a particularly apposite day to post it.
As a both PhD student studying in the field of educational administration and teacher of English, I want to write about neither the management of Turkish schools nor how to teach English in a more effective way. I want to tell a story, which I read recently and moved me a great deal. It is a story of a child, a woman, a mother or all. Actually it is the story of 128,866 children in Turkey who have been forced to get married under the age of 18 in the last three years. Some of them are lucky just because they are still living, but some aren’t so lucky and die as children.
K.E was a 12 year child who was supposed to go to school in Siirt, one of the cities in the eastern region of Turkey. However, instead of going to school, she was forced to get married at the age of twelve . She was a child who became a mother at the age of 13 and lost her second child at the age of 14. And then she was shot and now she is dead. She lived and died in a very short time. She is only one of those 128,866 children who was forced to get married and become a mother without living their childhood.
If our national education in Turkey there is a principle of ‘equality of opportunity’ and we assert that every child should have the opportunity to impove herself. I want to ask the question where the equality really is. How can we say that everybody has equal access to education while children are being forced to get married instead of having an education? If national education is compulsory for all primary and secondary children, why are these children getting married instead of going to school? And while the number of these children is increasing day by day, why do the authorities prefer not to make any regulations against these kind of practices? Maybe, the main question should be whether there is any social justice in Turkey?
While all these children are living a life they don’t choose at all, we are talking about how to make our students and society more religious and schooling is becoming ever more conservative. This is the reality of today’s education in Turkey where any claim to a secular tradition is constantly being attacked. This is intentional because if people become more religious, they won’t question anything, but be more willing to accept things as they are. We prefer to close our ears to the voices around us, and instead concentrate on how to reach the standards in PISA league tables. Like educators everywhere we are being driven by the need to make our education system more competitive in the global market. Turkey is no different to anywhere else. It is targets that matter. At the same time the introduction of schools for profit increases and the number of private schools has risen from 9,640 to 18,360 in the last twelve years.
And as we are dealing with all these things, children with no hope for their future are enduring living somewhere. We are closing our ears to their quiet screams. We are deliberately preferring not to see because blindness provides a peace for people who are indifferent to the suffering of others. We are preferring to be silent because once we speak up, we will have to take responsibility and we won’t be able to have the same peaceful lives anymore.
K.E could have neither a past nor a future in her short lifetime and in time she will be forgotten. In a few days there may be another K.E. Who cares? And who speaks up?
Therefore, the only way of showing my solidarity is to ask questions and write about her, so that she can at least have a written past somewhere. Maybe, I can exclude myself from this quiet and indifferent majority in this small way – but imagine the possibilities for these children if we were able to stand up together and speak as one . . .