Erdogan came to Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar believing that if he waved around the prospect of massive investment, the governments would shut down the Gulen schools and give marching orders to the Turkish nationals running them. It turned out at the African states quite like having well-resourced schools catering for the local elites and did not oblige.
Erdogan wants the Gulen-linked schools in Africa to be closed down, yet they are the very educational establishments which are popular with Africa’s middle class. They are an inexpensive alternative to French schools. If parents send their children to Turkish schools, it is not because the schools are Turkish, but because they employ good teachers. Africa’s middle class want good schools.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tanzania on January 22 to launch a three-nation East Africa tour to crack down against Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan is targeting an international network of charities and schools affiliated with a movement run by US-based Gulen.
Turkey’s involvement in Africa feeds into the Turkish ruling party’s “self-perception as the protector of Muslims and Muslim minorities around the world.” There is also the understanding that the existing Gulenist networks in the West are harder to take on because of Turkey’s capability limitations in the West, especially when it comes to influence and imagery problems.
Vietnam feels like an odd refuge for those who put their faith in one of Turkey’s most controversial political figures—a man who preaches peace, but has been accused of fomenting war. For Yildirim and others like him, however, it may prove the safest place in the world.
Zouhir Mohammed Kadour, the Director of the Mohammed Al-Fatih School, said, “We are shocked by the announcement of the Interior Ministry […] We’ve worked for the Al-Fatih School Group for 22 years. We followed the Moroccan curriculum, the Moroccan Ministry of Education program, and the school staff is Moroccan.”
At the heart of the matter is the question of Maa’rif’s credentials to take over the schools instead of its Pakistani management. Turkey is least known for its standard of education. Moreover, the Erdogan-backed organisation is neither experienced in the education field nor apolitical. The organisation is already scared with allegation of child sexually abuse in Turkey.
Amnesty South Asia Director Champa Patel: “With 24 million Pakistani children out of school, Pakistan’s decision to expel teachers from the Pak-Turk International Schools and Colleges will only hurt Pakistan’s children. What the country needs is more classrooms and more teachers, not a politically-motivated decision to purge educators at the behest of the Turkish government.”