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Turkiye’s educational activities in Africa

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May 30, 2022 - 06:26 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – ISTANBUL (AA) – Due to education’s impact on employment, wages, and economic growth, economic policies play a pivotal role in education policies in the modern world. The right to a good-quality education is thus considered one of the main elements of sustainable development in both the UN’s 2030 goals and the African Union’s strategy document Agenda 2063.

Turkiye’s Maarif Foundation in 27 African countries

The Maarif Foundation of Turkiye, which was established to find a solution to education-related problems of people living abroad by the Turkish National Education Ministry, has been providing formal and non-formal education and housing services to more than 50,000 students of all nationalities with its 461 educational institutions located in 47 countries in the world. Turkiye is among the first five countries in the world in terms of the prevalence of international school chains thanks to the works of the Maarif Foundation, which operates educational activities in 20 of the world’s least developed countries. In parallel with the ever-deepening and strengthening relations with Africa, 25 of the 47 countries in which the Maarif Foundation operates are located in Africa.

Turkiye’s educational activities in the African continent have not started with the Maarif Foundation as they are not limited to only the works of the foundation itself. Yunus Emre Institutes (YEE) located in nine different countries of the continent from North Africa to South Africa, Turkology departments and centers for Turkish studies in cooperation with well-established universities of the continent, the support provided by Turkiye’s Istanbul Technical University for the establishment of engineering faculties, which we have seen its first example in the East African country of Djibouti, studies carried out by the International University of Health Services, and the projects developed by the Turkish universities as part of the Erasmus+ can be seen as Turkiye’s educational activities in Africa.

Furthermore, international imam hatip high schools and international theological programs that have been successfully conducted by Turkiye’s Diyanet Foundation for a long time, the support given by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) to the educational projects, and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), which provides educational opportunities to the African students under the brand of Turkiye Scholarships, come to the forefront as national flagship institutions. The Turkish National Education Ministry adds other dimensions to the country’s educational activities across the African continent beyond enabling such studies to be realized.

With the establishment of the Maarif Foundation of Turkiye in 2016 and the activities of other institutions being connected with the permission of the Turkish National Education Ministry, it has become possible for all these institutions to work in coordination without spending extra time, energy, and resources in countries where educational institutions have been opened by the foundation.

Africa is not a single country

The educational activities of the Maarif Foundation as a chain of international schools involve both the content of the education and the construction of the legal and physical ground that will make this education possible. To succeed in this field, it is required to be able to find original solutions to different problems raised on a variety of levels, some of which are universal while some others are local. Firstly, although a Pan-African approach integrated with its differences is accepted in the AU, of which all countries across the continent are members without exception, Africa is not a single country.

Additionally, the perception of “needy Africa, consisting of deserts and forests that have been processed for centuries, have no history and civilization, and have never been discovered,” must be deleted from the minds for good. We must also learn how to build an equitable relationship, not forgetting that we are deprived of the extraordinary wealth of contributions that Africans can offer to the world because of decolonization, which is a shameful anomaly.

Cleaning of Africa from FETO-affiliated schools

Numerous studies on how to increase quality and success in education demonstrate that the physical conditions of the schools have a severely limiting impact on the success of the students themselves. However, more than half of the African students of school ages do not have any access to education due to insufficient learning environments even though they want to. When this is taken into account, it is obvious that this means nothing unless there is a certain physical “existence”. In some African countries, where seven students have to share only one course book, there are also no pedagogical formation programs for teachers either.

There are also some other issues like the language spoken within the household being different from the “official” language taught in schools most of the time, and the curricula and teaching techniques from the colonial era, which have nothing to do with the realities and needs of the country, is considered the only options. It also should not be forgotten that schools affiliated with the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which has been in operation since the 1990s, have given serious damage to the educational environment of these countries.

In the last five years, 118 FETO-affiliated schools in 16 African countries have been transferred to Turkiye’s Maarif Foundation in line with the desires of related countries. The completion of the transfer processes without any problems and the noticeable increase in both the academic achievements and the physical standards of the schools after the transfer led to the consolidation of trust in Turkiye across the continent. However, reducing all activities to just this and evaluating them only on this dimension would also not reflect the real picture.

Original answers to challenging questions

The Maarif Foundation of Turkiye aims to ensure mutual interaction between different cultures, establish equal relations, an understanding that sees differences as wealth and create a dynamic educational climate that will allow all actors involved in educational processes to reach out and produce information. The most prominent contribution of the foundation is its original educational approach within the scope of local opportunities and realistic needs. At the basis of this original approach, there is a curricula design that will meet the real needs, and adapt to the differing circumstances in each country while protecting the standard with a strong learner profile.

In this framework, students are provided with a proper science and mathematics education, as well as solid social science education in the schools of the Maarif Foundation of Turkiye, so that they can better understand the world in which they live. Also, it is aimed for the students that they learn Turkish and English or French at a good level in addition to their native language, supporting their education processes with new technologies, and solidifying respect towards cultural differences in schools.

In addition, it is taken into account that education is always a public service even if it is a private educational institution that carries out its own activities, and close cooperation is being developed with all official authorities, especially the education ministries in the countries where the foundation operates. In this context, children with high potential, who do not have the opportunity to achieve a quality education as a reflection of public responsibility, are supported by various scholarships and support programs. Furthermore, to instill in students high academic standards, as well as to instill consciousness and self-confidence that will have a say in the fate of their own country, schools should not be one-way and stationary information transfer centers. It is also important to remember how significant it is to provide students with a suitable ground on which they can discover and realize their own potential.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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