I met with Burak Maviş, the General Secretary of the Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Trade Union [KTÖS], following Ankara’s interference in textbooks and the imposition of religious symbols.
I ask, “Schools are opening, what will you do with these books?”
He says, “Teachers will use their own sources without making room for conflict and tension, and the problematic pages will not be taught.”
Burak Maviş is from a younger generation of trade unionists, sensitive, responsible, and free from dogmas, one that doesn’t resort to slogans to secure popularity. Hopefully, this system won’t mould Maviş in its own image.
We discuss textbooks, private tutoring, full-day education, and figures. Of course, our first topic of discussion was our school books which were tampered with without even considering it necessary to consult with members of the “Advisory and High Council for Basic Education Programme Development” in fact, our own educators.
Burak Maviş speaks…
“There are 65 books that have been changed, 24 primary school books. When the textbooks were first written in our country between 2013 and 2018, the correct method was followed; the educators of this country were selected, and an inclusive study was carried out. There is certainly a need to update [the books]. However, the process followed was wrong both academically and ethically. What has been removed from the books is just as important as what has been added to them… We will see this because hundreds of pages must be reviewed again. The changes made to illustrations seem to be around six or seven pages. But fundamentally, the integrity of the books has been tampered with. We have yet to receive the new books. Our view is clear; we are demanding that the books undergo a rapid review following the interference, by setting up a new commission in Nicosia. We have top-level educators and committee members for this purpose. Furthermore, apologies should be made to the authors of these books.”
“What will you do?”
I ask, “What will you do?”
Burak Maviş, as an educator, first expresses his concerns:
“They want to create polarization through the headscarf issue, they are pursuing a policy of division, and we have serious concerns in this regard. That’s why we will be inclusive. Alternative documents are being prepared to replace the problematic pages in the books. We have formed a team for this purpose.”
Burak Maviş uses this noteworthy expression: “Teachers don’t tear up books.” He explains that teachers will not be tearing out the problematic pages in the books that will be sent to schools.
“Our teachers will act sensitively without creating conflict and tension, they will not tear up books, but they will create their own educational resources. We will prepare alternative pages strictly abiding by scientific methods and present it to them accordingly. These alternative pages will be used in teaching either by glueing them onto or adding them on top of controversial pages. When creating alternative pages, we are also considering the psychological aspect of the matter beyond the pedagogical terminology, so we consult with experts.”
There is another noteworthy point in this process!
The cost of printing the books has been included in the budget under the financial assistance that has been coming from Turkey to the island for years. Thus, Turkey is also managing the printing process of the books by covering the “costs”. This aspect of the matter also needs to be discussed separately.
“The union believes in all-day education”
There is such a perception on the streets: “Teachers are against it even if all the conditions for all-day education are met.”
When I mentioned this to Burak Maviş, he said: “Perhaps as teachers, we haven’t been able to fully explain ourselves to the public,” and added:
“As the Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Trade Union, we believe that we need to transition to all-day education. Schools should be used 24 hours a day, not only for children but they should also be open for adults. There are examples of this in Europe.”
If the union believes in “all-day education,” is it possible?
“The Ministry of Education’s claim of all-day education does not include a transition in any way. The all-day programme they have drafted only adds one more class in total compared to previous years.”
Maviş supports a gradual transition to “All-Day Education”…
“Let’s select the most prepared schools in each area, set a target for ourselves, for example, 2025, to complete the infrastructure and create the necessary conditions, and progress in phases. Let’s have all-day education five days a week. Let’s get more support from local administrations, and empower them further. Let’s give priority to volunteerism.”
The General Secretary of the Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Trade Union Maviş explains that schools have now turned into construction sites, with most schools converting subject-specific rooms into regular classrooms. He asks, “Is it healthy or safe to keep students at school for a full day when there is construction going on?”
Burak Maviş draws attention to another aspect of this process: “Are we going to educate or babysit? We must overcome this issue.”
Maviş explains that the perception “teachers don’t want all-day education” is also due to private tutoring. He says the percentage of the community that commercializes education does not exceed 10%, and points to the Ministry of Education as the authority that needs to take measures on this…
We conclude the topic with a warning from Maviş: “Primary school teachers will not prevent all-day education, but the captain, in other words, the minister, is not safe on this journey, and we will witness this. When transitioning to all-day education, teachers will also rightfully receive their due, of course… Because currently, our teachers are almost fully utilizing their 25 teaching hours.”
“Most teachers also send their children to private schools”
I believe that if we can succeed in bringing all segments of society back to public schools, public education will advance in terms of infrastructure and quality. In such an event, the struggle waged by teachers and parents will become much more collaborative and strengthened… However, currently, particularly the upper-middle class of society send their children to private schools at the cost of “borrowing [from banks].” When you ask for the reasons behind this, families point to issues such as lack of infrastructure, absence of all-day education, and interruptions in education, as well as strikes at schools.
“This is incorrect,” says Burak Maviş, “There were only two strikes at primary schools last year. Moreover, the reasons for these strikes were again to provide better education for the children.”
This time I asked, “Do you have a scientific study on the reasons for this inflated interest in private schools?”… There is no such study, but based on his own observations, Burak Maviş makes the following assessment: “There are two main reasons; families are actually buying a network and friends for their children by sending them to private schools… There’s also a status concern, the desire for our child to attend a college… [Translator’s note: Reference to Türk Maarif College system, offering English-language secondary school public education for a limited number of students who pass an entrance exam] The demographic structure also distances families from public schools.”
“So, which schools do teachers send their children to?” I ask. No research has been conducted in this regard, and Burak Maviş adds, “Teachers are also part of the society we live in, and I think they mostly send their children to private schools.”
Burak Maviş mentions that generally, public schools are preferred until the end of primary school, and afterwards, if the child fails to enter the [Türk Maarif] college, private schools are preferred.