October 26, 2015

Hakkari Governor’s Office sends instruction to shut down FEM prep school

A FEM preparation school in Hakkari has received a notification from the Hakkari Governor's Office demanding it cease operations immediately.

The letter arrived at the FEM prep school's Hakkari branch at around 3 p.m. on Sunday. The news baffled the students, parents and managers of the school because the Constitutional Court and the Council of State had recently given orders to cancel a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's bill that aimed to shut down prep schools.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Sunday, the school's vice principal, students and parents expressed their outrage at the governor's office for what they consider an unjustifiable action.

Pointing out that the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) is approaching, Vice Principal Hanefi Taşdemir said the decision to shut down the institution will negatively affect students preparing for the exam. “All students, parents and teachers who are wronged by the decision to shut down the [Hakkari branch of] the FEM prep school will file a claim for damages [against the Hakkari Governor's Office],” he said.

A student's parent, Süleyman Hezer, said: “The situation we are facing now in Hakkari is against the [recent] decision of the Constitutional Court and the Council of State to not close preparation schools. The [Hakkari] Governor's Office sent a notification on its own initiative demanding the closure of the [FEM] prep school. What are the grounds for this demand? What law is it based on? Why has the governor sent a notice to shut down this prep school? I demand answers to these questions.”

Cihan Açar, one of the students of the school, said he does not want his school to be shut down because it attaches great importance to his and his classmates' education. “We prep school students don't even want to hear about the closing of prep schools. We just want to achieve our goal [of building a good career] and don't want [the government] to violate our right [to be educated],” Açar said.

Cebbar Taş, another student, said closing the institution would take Hakkari back to the 1990s, when only a small number of students were able to study at university. “While only four students from Hakkari were able to study at university in the 1990s, the number has increased to 400 now, thanks to the FEM prep school. Therefore, I call out to senior government officials and ask them to remove this obstacle that hinders students,” Taş stated.

The AK Party government's bill that bans privately owned university preparatory schools was passed by Parliament on March 7, 2014 and signed into law by then-President Abdullah Gül five days later. Under this law, all prep schools were to be shut down by Sept. 1 of this year. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) later challenged the law, saying it was a blow to the right to free enterprise. The CHP filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to annul the law last year.

On July 13, the Constitutional Court announced its long-awaited decision. It annulled the controversial law in a five-to-12 majority vote on the grounds that the law represented a violation of constitutional articles related to the right to education and freedom of labor.

On Sept. 18, the Council of State annulled a circular sent to every governor's office by the Ministry of Education that demanded all operating university preparation schools, known as “dershanes,” to be closed and that the ministry would take legal action against those currently in operation.

Prep schools are private institutes that help students prepare for standardized high school and college entrance exams. There has been concern that the law could block upward mobility in Turkish society and leave some 55,000 people jobless as a result of the closures of the schools.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 October 2015, Monday