Turkey is now an emerging actor and a rising star in the international arena. It cannot only rely on improving its economic relations with other countries through people-to-people relations since they are as important as intergovernmental relations, writes Michael Melaku.
The leader of Turkey’s recently established the Maarif Foundation. Professor Birol Akgün after the establishment said that the Foundation aims to be active around the world within five years, addressing the educational needs of the Turkish community abroad by offering a visionary Turkish-style education and promoting the Turkish language.
Maarif Foundation was named after an Ottoman-Turkish word for education that comes from the Arabic word for knowledge or wisdom. The Foundation aims to address the educational needs of the Turkish community abroad, offering Turkish-style education in other countries. Pointing out that the foundation was not founded simply to fight Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) schools and organizations abroad, Professor Akgün said that would have been a shortsighted aim; on the contrary, they want to have a presence in the international community in the long-run.
According to Akgün, Maarif is an education Foundation that was established in June 2016 as a public entity. It was founded to provide formal education on all levels, based on the universal values of humanity. There are several reasons for its existence. Turkey is now an emerging actor and a rising star in the international arena. It cannot only rely on improving its economic relations with other countries through people-to-people relations since they are as important as intergovernmental relations. Education is an important component of this integration process and thus Turkey aims to create a mechanism that would further its philosophy of education. The Foundation was founded for this reason.
Ambassador Hasan Yavuz, Vice President of Maarif said that the Foundation started Education activities in five countries in Africa and has finalized the transfer processes in these countries without any problems. Yavuz said that they will start education in 10 more African countries very soon.
Yavuz also stated that negotiations for signing a Memorandum of Understanding of takeover schools with 15 countries, including Ethiopia, are underway.
Yavuz stated that one of the aims of the Foundation is the takeover of these schools, which belong to FETÖ. Yavuz added that they will attach importance to the relations of the countries concerned with Turkey besides the quality of education they will provide.
Yavuz emphasized that they will pay attention to decreasing school fees and that the important thing is that future generations have quality education.
“We will develop strong relationships in health sciences, technical and vocational fields, and culture and communication issues by establishing cooperation with the universities in Turkey for the schools that are taken over in Africa. In these matters we have taken some steps in Somalia and Sudan,” Yavuz said.
Yavuz stated that Turkey has never been a colonialist in Africa, but a country that solves Africa’s problems together with Africans in Africa. “The Turkish Maarif Foundation, which is one of the most important strategic institutions in Turkey, will be the face of Turkey in Africa with regards to education.
Central Coordinator of the Turkish Maarif Foundation, Adem Koç, have also explained the Foundation’s projects in Ethiopia
Referring to the visit of the President of Ethiopia to Ankara, Koç said, “We have started the establishment of the Foundation in Ethiopia with the explanation of the clear decision taken by the Ethiopian government to close down six different schools belonging to FETÖ and to transfer it to the Maarif Foundation. We are in Ethiopia and we are very excited to prepare all the groundwork for this and to take our place in Ethiopia in education.”
Koç, who noted that there are historical relations between Ethiopia and Turkey, said, “We are looking at Ethiopia as a friendly and brotherly country. In coordination with our embassy, we are completing our Foundation’s activities with the support Turkish investors, TIKA and THY. I believe that our bilateral relations will be moved to a more advanced stage. “
Koç said that Turkish schools in Ethiopia belong to the Turkish nation, “I want to underline two important issues here. First of all, we are confronted with a terrorist organization. Among the priorities of the Foundation is the taking over of schools which are in the hands of these organizations. All assets are donated by the Turkish government, they benefited from tax exemptions, donated by Turkish citizens. These schools and other institutions are the property of the Turkish nation and we will restore them to the Republic of Turkey, who is a longtime friend and partner of Ethiopia”
Koç paid attention to the fact that FETÖ played very different games and tried to change the ownership of schools by making fake sales.
Koç said that many friendly and brotherly countries such as Ethiopia were on the side of Turkey’s struggle for democracy and disbanded these games and transferred these schools to the Foundation.
“We had a painful experience and paid a hefty price. We lost 250 citizens, more than 2,200 citizens were injured, and our economy has lost 20 billion dollars. It was a serious brainwashing function these schools were engaged in. We do not recognize these schools or their diplomas in Turkey.”
Koç added that Turkey’s Maarif Foundation is a public institution that is founded on the votes of the ruling and opposition parties in Parliament.
Indicating that the Foundation has the mandate to provide education and scholarship from kindergarten to the university, Koç said that there are a wide range of possibilities, including bachelor’s degree education in Turkey. “We have sufficient budget, dynamic, fast and efficient infrastructure to work with every country. Our staff is ready for this.”
“By sharing these opportunities with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, we aim to raise good people all over the world by targeting the common values of humanity in education. We want to share all the opportunities of the Turkish state in the field of education with our Ethiopian brothers without any discrimination of religion, race or sect; we are here for this.”
Noting that the Ethiopian Ministry of Education directs projects on vocational high schools and vocational schools, Koç said that they are planning to reduce tuition fees and serious improvements in the salaries of Ethiopian workers.
As the Foundation’s Central Coordinator, Koç stated that parents, students and local employees will not be victims of the actual transfer of schools.
Koç also said that they wanted to change the upper level administrators belonging to the terror organization, FETÖ, and continue with the administrators and teachers.
Koç said that they will conduct education in accordance with the law and curriculum of the Ministry of Education and the frame displayed by the Ethiopian state. “We will be in consultation with the school’s family associations and their families throughout the whole education season. The whole process will proceed in a transparent manner.”
“As Maarif Foundation, we are ready to take over the schools and continue with the education phase,” Koç said. “”We have the budget and the necessary capacity for this. Our human resources are ready. We expect the Ethiopian authorities to complete the actual transfer period as soon as possible.” Koç also warned parents about not registering their children with the existing schools.
Ed.’s Note: Michael Melaku is the Manager of the Horn of Africa Press Institute (HAPI). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter or the institution he is affiliated with. He can be reached at [email protected].