Uncertainty surrounds the future of Pak-Turk schools in the country. In the wake of the foiled military coup in Turkey, the country’s ambassador to Pakistan has urged for the shutdown of all Pak-Turk schools and colleges which belong to the alleged US-based ‘mastermind of the coup’, Fethullah Gülen. With the future of 10,000 students enrolled in the 28 schools and colleges spread across the country hanging in the balance, the government has to make a tough decision and so far they are employing diplomacy to steer a safe, prosperous course forward.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has already said they will listen to the Turkish government and their concerns and no sudden move will be made. While word has been received from Islamabad that there have been talks of a complete staff overhaul along with a new management setup to keep the schools running, the ones in Sindh are already witnessing staff reshuffle.
Start at the top
Since the Turkish government is certain the schools are being run by supporters of Gülen, all staff members are being viewed with suspicion. At one of the three schools in Karachi, Gulistan-e-Jauhar campus, Zafer Elen has replaced Yasin Ulucinar as principal of the school.
Seated in the principal’s office the two Turkish nationals exchanged worried looks while sorting through some paperwork. “In order to help our brother country in education, this project was started 20 years back,” said Elen. “We don’t have any hidden agenda, and whatever happened in Turkey is also not our fault,” he added.
The Pak-Turk network has also officially denied links with any political or religious movement on their website, and Elen believes there is a zero per cent chance of the schools being shut down in Pakistan. “We believe in our Pakistani brothers. They know what we are doing here,” he said confidently and added that their school is monitored by the ministry of education and intelligence agencies three times a year.
On a question of schools being funded by the Gülen, Elen responded Gülen is an ‘imam’ (preacher) and he teaches good things. Gülen’s teachings focus on three things: Education, poverty and unity. Meanwhile, Ulucinar said that they have no connection with Gülen, but they do support his ideology. Furthermore, Elen clarified the schools are fully funded by student fees.
While Elen is confident the schools will remain operational, parents are less convinced. According to school administrator Asma Khalid, she has been attending calls non-stop assuring parents that the school will reopen as per schedule on August 15. If the government thinks they can shut down schools, it is just not possible, she said. “Students have paid fees and no one can return that much amount,” she explained.
The school’s commerce teacher Muhammad Kamran has said that in case the government “dares” to shut down the schools, the teachers will take to the streets in protest.
Hopes are high
At the Pak-Turk school in Jamshoro district, the staff has yet to receive word of an overhaul. Most parents are confident that schools will remain open. “We have been hearing this [demand] since years. This time I didn’t pay much attention,” said a parent, Anil Kumar Bhatia.
Inaugurated in 2012, the Jamshoro campus, with an enrollment of over 400 students, is located on the premises of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences. In their Facebook message to parents and students on July 26, they stated, “We are committed to our noble task and will continue to impart quality education … In future also.”
Sohail Chana, who is a subject teacher at the school said Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments have clarified they will be not be cancelling licences of the Pak-Turk schools in the provinces. “This emboldens our belief that nothing is going to happen and that Sindh government will do the same,” she said. An officer in the school’s administration hinged his hope on the country’s elite class. “More than 10,000 students are enrolled in our schools across the country. Given the fee structure, a majority of the students are children of the elite. We hope they will defend the school system because the quality of education their children receive is connected with it,” he shared.
Excerpt from article published on The Express Tribune, 29 July 2016, Friday
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