The Ministry of Education engaged in scandalous discrimination on Thursday by crossing off Hizmet-affiliated schools at the eleventh hour from the list of private education institutions that students who are entitled to state financial assistance can enroll at.
The Hizmet schools were in the original list of those institutions which met all the criteria for eligibility to receive financial incentives to accept these students. Announced on Monday, the schools were listed on the ministry's website until Thursday afternoon, when they were taken off without any explanation. However, an official written notice sent from the ministry to governorates on Thursday said: “It was not deemed proper to give such incentives to education institutions whose managers are under fiscal investigation and interrogation within the scope of the Law No. 5549 on the Prevention of Laundering of Crime Revenues and those that had received punishments fiscal irregularities after due inspections before,” and asked the governorates do what the notice requires.
Students and their guardians who were planning to send their children to these schools, which have the reputation of offering the highest standard of education in their provinces, reacted to this last-minute change, saying such a move “was completely illegal and arbitrary.”
Bayram Kaya, whose child was chosen to receive financial assistance for private school enrollment, said they were planning to make their preferences and they were surprised to see that the school which they had picked in the originally announced list had been taken off the updated list. “This kind of unlawfulness is not acceptable. We want this illegal practice to be stopped immediately,” he told Today's Zaman.
The Education Ministry's initial list included 4,361 schools but 360 of them were later removed. A sensational article from pro-government media outlet Star on Wednesday titled “Incentive blow to parallel [state]” claimed the schools that had not benefited from the private school incentives were mostly those known to have affiliations with the Hizmet movement. The daily falsely claimed that these schools are under financial investigation and are far from meeting the financial criteria set as private school standards by the ministry. The same report also claimed that the Hizmet-affiliated schools which were in the incentive list will soon be subjected to a financial investigation and will shortly be taken off the list.
As part of its controversial move to transform dershanes -- private tutoring institutions which prepare students for entrance exams -- into private schools, the Education Ministry started an incentive program this year for families to encourage them to send their children to private schools, which offer a far better education to students than crowded and generally ineffective public schools. The program envisages contributing about TL 3,000 per child in several installments to the private schools in turn for a reduction in fees.
The system has been criticized for its scope and problems in selecting children. For instance, in Siirt province, applications from a total of 190 children were accepted for the private school incentive program but the only private school in the province was not in the list of eligible schools. Likewise, in the provinces of İzmir, Konya, Kayseri, Gümüşhane and Tunceli, numerous private schools were not given a place in the eligibility list despite the fact that they met the standards and they were in a strong financial position.
Published on Today's Zaman, 04 September 2014, Thursday