October 30, 2015

Parents criticize order to close Anafen prep school

The parents of students attending a prep school in İznik have criticized a written notice sent by the İznik Municipality on Oct. 29, the day marking the foundation of the Turkish Republic, ordering the school to close for good.

The news baffled the students, parents and management of the Anafen prep school because the Constitutional Court and the Council of State recently ruled to repeal a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government-sponsored law ordering that prep schools be shut down.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Thursday, parents said the written order, signed by İznik Mayor Osman Sargın, is unjustifiable.

A parent of a student at the school, Eşref Tuna said the mayor of İznik has signed an unfortunate directive. “The written notice [sent by the mayor] causes prep schools that contribute to society to be marginalized. Since we live in a state of law, we believe that justice will be restored.”

Referring to the accomplishments of students educated at the prep school, another parent, Mesut Güler, said: “Our children were educated here to, above all, have good manners. They have achieved great success. It deeply hurts the public conscience that while many unauthorized enterprises are active in İznik and other places in Turkey, where people can illegally gamble and drink alcohol, it [the İznik Municipality] demands the closure of an educational institution. We will take all legal steps available."

Eray Bahçekapılı, whose two sons attend the Anafen prep school, noted that the children's teachers at their public schools have never complained about them, thanks to the education they received at the prep school. “During the parent-teacher meetings at my sons' schools, the teachers complained about all the other children but mine. I regard the teachers at this prep school as more than just teachers. They are like brothers and sisters [to our children]. Instead of closing this place where parents are pleased, the government should deal with the problems of some public schools that parents are complaining about,” Bahçekapılı said.

Orhan Tekoğlu, a lawyer representing the Anafen prep school in İznik, emphasized that the İznik Municipality had exceeded its authority by sending the notice ordering that the school be shut down.

Parliament passed an AK Party government-sponsored bill banning privately owned university preparatory schools on March 7, 2014. The bill was 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) challenged the law, saying it was a blow to the right to free enterprise. The CHP filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to repeal 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 invalidated an order in a circular previously sent to every governor's office by the Ministry of Education demanding that all private university preparation schools be closed and noting that the ministry would take legal action against those that remained in operation.

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

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 October 2015, Friday