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.
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.
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.”
Mohammed Aqeel, 24, who attended the Peshawar school and now teaches there, called the visa cancellations “a shameful event” that had compromised Pakistan’s independence and damaged its educational standards. “There is no foreign ideology here,” he said. “I love this school. It grooms us to be good human beings as well as students.”
The motive behind Maarif Foundation is to use it as a tool to pressurize African countries to transfer ownership of Hizmet movement linked schools to the Maarif Foundation since the request for the closure of these schools were turned down for lacking in merit.
The act of sending to Turkey over 400 Turkish citizens working and studying in the Pak-Turk International School system is highly condemnable. They have been living in Pakistan since 1995 and this is their home now. Their kids were born and brought up in Pakistan. It is heart-wrenching to see that they are suddenly being treated like terrorists.