Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education (MoE) on Monday formally handed over the management of Afghan-Turk schools to the Turkish government, defying calls by parents and students to keep the schools under Afghan control.
Following a failed military coup in 2016, the Turkish government formally asked Afghanistan to hand over control of these schools to the Turkish government.
“Based on the MoU signed between the Afghanistan ministry of education and Turkey, the management of Afghan-Turk Schools has been handed over from Cag Educational Foundation to the Turkish ministry of education. The transition of leadership of the schools is aimed to further promote the quality and quantity of the schools which will be regulated by the education ministries of the two countries,” the Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE) said in a statement on Monday.
According to the MoE, the Turkish government has committed to outline a ten-year plan based on which Turkey will increase the number of schools and will focus on the quality of education and equip them with more facilities.
In the first phase, Turkey will spend $5 million USD to bring about systematic changes in these schools and this amount will be increased to $20 million USD in the coming years, said the MoE.
“With the transition, there will be no change in the curricula of the school and more learning programs will be undertaken for students. Entry exams will be conducted across Afghanistan and there will be a 20 percent reduction in fees. Free education will be considered to children of martyrs of the security institutions,” said minister of education Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari.
“Based on the agreement, the number of schools will be increased to 28 and ten new technical and vocational schools will be built. The number of students at these schools will be increased to 18,000 in ten years,” added Shinwari.
Meanwhile, Turkish Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said that his country will continue its cooperation with the Afghan education sector and that Turkey will strongly abide by the provision of the agreement signed between the countries on the transition of the Afghan-Turk schools.
Turkey claims that these schools are run by Turkish cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gülen who is currently in exile in the United States.
Turkey blamed Gülen for orchestrating the failed military takeover in 2016. However, former officials from the Afghan-Turk schools have said the schools had nothing to do with politics and they only provide education to Afghan children.
On Monday, parents of the Afghan-Turk school association called on the Afghan government to keep the schools and students out of politics.
“We maintain the right to raise our voice against the illegal decision made by the government, I again call on the president and the government leadership not to oppress our children,” said Mohammad Yusuf Pashtun, head of Afghan-Turk parents’ association.
According to some reports, the Turkish government reportedly offered a number of incentives in exchange for taking control of these schools.
The incentives reportedly include:
• Student fees to be cut by 20%
• Scholarships to be given to some students
• Turkey will consider doubling the number of schools in the country
• Turkey will include languages including English in the curriculum
• Turkey will bring in new, highly qualified teachers
• Turkey will invest $5 million USD in the first phase so as to improve facilities at schools
• Turkey to plan a ten-year education program to increase student numbers and school buildings
Afghanistan and Turkey have meanwhile not signed any agreement on the fate or repatriation of Turkey nationals currently employed at the schools.
Following the Afghan government’s move to arrest three teachers from Afghan-Turk Schools in December 2017, other staff members said they are now refugees in Afghanistan and that any extradition to Turkey by the Afghan government would be illegal.
The deputy head of Afghan-Turk Schools, Ahmad Fawad Haidari, rejected the allegations that the schools are part of organizations based in Turkey.
He said the schools have no links to any foreign organization or any organization in other countries.
Three Afghan-Turk teachers, including one Afghan national, and a Turkish businessman were arrested by the National Directorate of Security forces in December 2017.
Afghan Turk International School & Colleges are members of a chain of Turkish educational institutions established in 1995 and believed to be run under the auspices of Afghan Turk International Cag Educational Foundation for the pursuit of excellence in education in Afghanistan.
Currently up to 8,000 students are enrolled at these schools, which has a teacher count of about 800. It is not however clear how many of these teachers are Turkish nationals.
There are eleven Afghan-Turk schools operating across Afghanistan and thousands of students have graduated from these schools over the years.