Turkey’s Hard Power Turn: Handing Hizmet Schools to the Turkey Maarif Foundation

This paper summarizes and analyses how Turkey has extended its mission to close down Hizmet schools in African and European countries via the public-private entity known as the Maarif Foundation



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Some articles referenced in this report show a certain political bias and propaganda by referring to the Gulen movement as the ‘Fetullah Terrorist Organization’ (FETO).

It is important to note that the Turkish government adopted this label as a scapegoating mechanism to pin the 15th July 2016 failed coup attempt upon the Gulen movement and its members. This label sought to create a narrative the Gulen movement had the sole aim of overthrowing the government; however, the reality is that the movement and the schools are facing persecution by a government threatened by legal charges and scandals, one that relied on scapegoating innocent lives and families.



During his time in Turkey in the 1960s and ’70s, Fetullah Gulen was a well-renowned Imam who preached that English-taught education builds morality and character as much as, if not more, than modesty, altruism, and hard work. He emphasized that education was essential for Turkey’s emergence into the globalized era.[i] In furtherance of this ideology, the Gulen movement of the 1980s was aided by funding from the so-called conservative ‘Anatolian tigers’ to create schools that would carry out such education founded upon, but not formally linked to, the principles espoused by Gulen. These schools were referred to globally as Hizmet schools. ‘Hizmet’ indicated that the schools taught about light, philosophy, reflection, dialogue, and tolerance.[ii] The schools were first formed voluntarily by business people within Turkey and staffed by educators seeking to engage in humanitarian work and charity. They soon expanded to various locations abroad in the ‘90s, including North America, Central Asia, Europe, Australia, and especially Africa. [iii] More often than not, these schools were the first informal instance of Turkey establishing economic, cultural, and political links with foreign governments.

Although the Turkish government initially tacitly supported these schools, this became more complicated after the Presidential Crisis of 2007. As a result of this crisis, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured control of the country’s political handle, forming an administration wary of leaving too much control over national and foreign affairs in the hands of external, private actors within and outside of Turkey.[iv] In a series of talks with the co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Hizmet Studies, Dr. Ismail M. Sezgin outlined how the government’s perception of the schools changed over time. It initially saw advantages in associating with the schools because the Gulen movement’s credibility was well-received by the Turkish population. But this perception changed as the Gulen movement became increasingly critical of the government amid changing political dynamics reflected in the 2012 elections.[v] This election round targeted then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resulting in corruption charges, a departure from Western ideals of democracy, and halted plans to join the European Union (EU). The Gulen movement condemned the government during this time, leading the government to reevaluate its perception of the movement. Dr. Sezgin explains that when more corruption charges emerged in 2014, Gulen became a real threat, prompting Erdogan to actively oppose Gulen. Ultimately, this political realignment resulted in the government’s attempt to blame the failed coup attempt on 15th July 2016 on the so-called ‘Fetullah Terrorist Organization’ (FETO) as a ploy to forcefully rebrand the Gulen movement as a threat to society.[vi]

The failed coup gave Erdogan what he has referred to as ‘a gift from God’ that allowed the AKP to conduct a witch-hunt-style attack on Hizmet schools. This inquisition began in Turkey, with many members facing human rights abuses and even imprisonment, but quickly spread internationally as the government called upon foreign governments to close the schools, especially those based in Africa.[vii] Such an attack obviously detrimentally impacted students who gained a high-quality and valuable education from the Hizmet schools. In many impoverished locations, the schools raised the standard of education and living. Nonetheless, in an attempt to quash the Gulen movement, the Turkish government created the pseudo-entity known as the ‘Maarif Foundation’ just weeks before the failed coup and equipped it with a mixture of public-private authority to either close or replace Hizmet schools.[viii]

The next section of this report shall briefly analyse the function of the Maarif Foundation, followed by a section commenting on the chronological takeover of Hizmet schools in Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, and Guinea by the Foundation. Then, the report will analyse Turkey’s shift from a soft power stance of economic diplomacy towards a harder form of power that risks transferring the consequences of Turkey’s domestic politics to other states. Lastly, the final section will conclude with some brief observations and recommendations.


On 17th June 2016, the then prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, announced the implementation of the law numbered 6721 that founded the Maarif Foundation, ‘Maarif’ meaning ‘education’ or ‘instruction’. President Erdogan and his government appointed its 12 members: 4 chosen by the President, three by the cabinet, and the rest by the ministries of education, foreign affairs, and the economy in conjunction with the Higher Education Council.[ix] The Foundation was granted the powers:

“to provide scholarships, schools, education and facilities such as schools, education institutions, and dormitories, to provide them with scholarships in all the processes of education, from pre-school to university education in order to develop and develop education and distribution services, only to be able to afford the institutions that can take part in institutions, the Turkish Maarif Foundation, which is in central Istanbul to conduct scientific research and research, develop and develop methods and carry out the activities of the country in which it operates, to carry out the activities of the country.”[x]


These terms of reference indicate that the Foundation is a government entity, receiving its budget and directives from public officials. It was distinguished from other foundations by its additional capacity to perform its functions abroad “by founding or taking over companies possessing private law legal entity,” which falls clearly within the remit of the status held by Hizmet schools founded abroad.[xi] The true, underlying intention of the Foundation started soon after the failed coup a month later, when Erdogan requested that the Foundation “be in 193 countries (…) [and] prioritise countries where FETO is more effective and known. Do not let the FETO schools be called ‘Turkish schools’”.[xii] To a certain extent, this demonstrates that Turkey continues to rely on private and semi-public actors abroad that had established and maintained relations with other states in the past, as noted above with the Gulen movement.


The primary barrier to the Foundation’s attempts to expropriate the physical property of Hizmet schools is the fact that domestic authorities must first agree to dispossess these schools to the Foundation, often leading to grueling and time-consuming trials in court, as recently seen in Ethiopia.[xiii] Despite facing resistance in its attempts to convince other countries to close down Hizmet schools or hand over the facilities, the Turkish government has achieved the most success in Africa by using what can be called the ‘stick approach’. In this approach, Turkey uses “sticks,” or hard power, rather than “carrots,” or soft power, to threaten a country’s socio-economic progress and infrastructural projects via economic and investment pressure. Dipama & Dal (2019) discuss Turkey’s use of the stick approach, describing how Turkey can exploit its links with particular African states through business, import, export, and foreign direct investment to its own benefit.[xiv] The next section will focus on the relationship between the Foundation and these select African countries before comparing the Foundation’s success in Belarus and mainland Europe.




One of the first African countries to acquiesce to the Turkish government’s demands was Gabon. Public officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the vice president of the Maarif Foundation, Hasan Yavuz, to cede three Hizmet schools to the Foundation, consisting of a total of 200 students.[xv] Chad also acquiesced to transfer Hizmet schools, but the extent of the takeover was only documented later in 2017 when a kindergarten, primary schools, dormitory, and secondary schools were expropriated and transferred to the Maarif Foundation for management ahead of a visit by President Erdogan.[xvi] The Education Minister of Chad at the time, Ahmad Khazali Acyl, considered it a step forward in Chadian-Turkish relations. From an outside, objective perspective, however, this can also be considered further erasure of Gulen’s influence in Africa to advance Erdogan’s agenda, which has painted the Hizmet schools as a ‘sham’ quality of education. It is important to note that “[m]any African countries, immediately after the coup attempt, deported [Hizmet] members and transferred the schools run by the group to our Maarif Foundation.”[xvii]

During 2017, the Maarif Foundation made significant headway in Africa, particularly in Guinea-Conakry, Djibouti, and Burundi. A total of 10 schools in the capital of Guinea were transferred to the Foundation following a three-month-long process of public authorities canceling Hizmet licenses to teach and own the private facilities. Once the Foundation took over former Hizmet schools, they were frequently remodeled with new names linked to political martyrs allegedly killed by supposed Gulenists during the coup attempt. [xviii]  Turkish officials officially inaugurated the schools at events that mimicked the humanitarian and charitable functions of the former Hizmet owners. Likewise, Joel Nkurabagaya, the then Burundian ambassador to Turkey, stated in 2017 that Burundi was working towards allowing the Foundation to open its own schools following the transfer of numerous Hizmet schools. These developments were precipitated by Hasan Yuvuz’s visit to Burundi in May 2017, ostensibly to discuss education but during which Burundian and Turkish officials introduced other political and economic interests. For example, during Yuvuz’s visit, the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, requested that Turkish Airlines open direct flights to Burundi.[xix] Similarly, Djibouti transferred a facility to the Foundation to use as a kindergarten and elementary school. It was additionally one of the first countries in Africa to grant the Foundation a 5-hectare plot of land to build its own Maarif educational institution. This trend would later take shape across Africa.[xx]

By January 2018, the Foundation had signed agreements with a total of 26 African states, with 16 having transferred schools over to the Foundation, consisting of nearly 9,000 students under the influence of President Erdogan’s Islamist ideology and political agenda.[xxi] These states were joined by Equatorial Guinea in September 2018, when Sebnem Cenk, Turkey’s ambassador in Malabo, and Fabiola Angono Miko, the deputy minister of Youth and Sports and Foreign Ministry, agreed to transfer a Hizmet school based in the capital, Malabo, to the Foundation under the new name of ‘Maarif Malabo College’.[xxii] In early 2019, the Foundation also managed to gain the cooperation of the Cameroonian government to close down and transfer Hizmet schools. The re-opening ceremony was attended by numerous distinguished officials from Cameroon and Turkey, with the Turkish ambassador to the country, Ayşe Saraç, commenting that:

“Cameroon supported our country and became our friend and ally in our struggle with [Hizmet]. Maarif Schools are more and more active in the international arena and have achieved significant successes. The Turkish Maarif Foundation will open new schools in Cameroon in the coming period. We keep following and supporting all works carried out in this regard.”[xxiii]

One of the most critical battlegrounds in taking over Hizmet schools can clearly be seen with respect to Ethiopia. This dynamic started in mid-2019 when the first Hizmet school, located in Harar, was expropriated and transferred to the Foundation, which met three years of legal challenges before attaining a second school located in Sebata Town.[xxiv] These legal challenges were prolonged by an investigation conducted by Ethiopian federal and state attorneys into terrorism and money laundering at the school that the Maarif Foundation was attempting to acquire. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom in 2021, the STEM Education Private Limited Company, composed of several German investors based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, owned the school.[xxv] The manager of the school, Dr. Norbert Helmut Dinse, explained that the school was foreign-owned within the educational sector of Ethiopia and that:

“Initially, the company was established by Turkish Investors. Through time, the three German investors acquired the investment following all procedures required under the law. German investors stepped in and took over the parent company again in full compliance with the requirements of the laws of the land.”[xxvi]

At first, it seemed that the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia would support the Hizmet school and its STEM owners due to the legitimate proof of its status as a privately owned school, even approving its school license for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, this changed after the Oromia and Sebata Education Bureau and several armed police officers trespassed onto school grounds, illegally installing the Turkish staff of the Maarif Foundation to begin teaching at the school instead.[xxvii] A representative of the Foundation, Levent Sahin, stated that “[a]fter the investigation, state attorney generals decided to suspend education licenses of the Stem company belonging to the terror organization. We want to see that this will be an example for the other schools.” By mid-August 2021, the Foundation took control of eleven more schools formerly run by Hizmet in Ethiopia, consisting of 2,000 students. Although staff and students mounted additional legal obstacles to stop these acquisitions, the Foundation utilized sympathetic parent-teacher associations to quash these legal attempts and sway educational bureaucracy in its favor.[xxviii]

At the moment of writing, there is a lack of credible information about the single institution that was either transferred or opened in Belarus. Nonetheless, this development occurred shortly after the opening of two schools in Bucharest, Romania, and Elbasan, Albania, in late 2019. Both replaced the Hizmet schools that existed in the respective countries.[xxix]



By March 2021, the Maarif foundation had taken control of 216 Hizmet schools in 44 countries, stating that it had signed a further 77 protocols to oversee the management of schools in 45 other countries.[xxx] Over half of the remaining schools managed by Hizmet staff are located in the U.S. and Europe, the former hosting a total of 312 schools, four universities, and 155 charter schools, with the largest facilities in the federal states of Texas, Ohio, California, and Florida.[xxxi] The rapid activity with which the Foundation has attained control over Hizmet schools poses many risks on various levels: for the children and their parents, for the domestic societies within which the Maarif schools operate, and at a bilateral level between Turkey and the host countries.

Toguslu (2017) explained these risks firstly at a bilateral level, correctly foreseeing that once the diplomatic tensions of 2016 and 2017 died down, African countries had paved the way for Turkey’s hard power capabilities to expand further into Africa by using the schools as an extension, as seen in Senegal.[xxxii] On the surface, the Foundation wants countries to believe that the quality of education and facilities offered at Maarif schools are of a higher standard and that the Foundation will discontinue the so-called maligned or flawed education previously offered in Hizmet schools. This superficial presentation is evident from the Secondary Education Minister of Cameroon, Nalova Lyonga, statement that:

“students will learn French and English as well as Turkish, and will develop a different culture and the habit of living together. We give importance to the different languages as part of culture and welcome the Turkish education with joy. I believe that Turkish culture will add a lot to us.”[xxxiii]

At a deeper level, the reality is that Turkey is using the Maarif Foundation to expand its political influence. This trend is evident from past behaviour, namely the export of Turkish teachers and imams to Europe to gather intelligence on diaspora communities and ensure that the diaspora follows the directives and ideology of the AKP party.[xxxiv] Akgun & Ozkan (2020) have also reported on the Foundation’s aspirations to move beyond the educational field and make a larger contribution towards Turkey’s foreign policy and diplomatic relations via the educational sector.[xxxv]

Furthermore, there are significant risks associated with the eradication of Hizmet schools. Hizmet teachers offered a higher than average educational quality to students in their host countries. This is evident from the academic excellence attributed to students and the high rate of satisfaction shown by parents; Hizmet schools were recognized to the point that state officials preferred to send their children to Hizmet education.[xxxvi] International organizations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have also found that Turkey’s education system underperforms compared to other states. In particular, there is a known risk of sexual harassment in educational institutions and in Turkey more generally, demonstrated by the scandals surrounding the Ensar Foundation, which was closely linked to President Erdogan.[xxxvii] Turkey itself does not provide quality education to its students, and yet it is exporting its own educational systems and values to other countries. This poses a fundamental risk to the countries that import Turkish education by lowering the bar for education in host countries, preventing children from receiving the quality education they deserve. By extension, this could negatively impact the economic development of host countries by preventing the cumulation of human capital via quality education.

A major risk is the possibility that the Maarif Foundation could advance Erdogan’s goal to become the leader of the Islamic world by using investment as a means to ingratiate himself and his agenda to non-Turkish Muslims living abroad.[xxxviii] This ambition is dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, the ‘coexistence’ and expressive approach of Hizmet schools to dialogue with different ethnicities, especially religions, is in stark contrast to the closed and exclusive ideology of Erdogan, who in the past has openly stated that Muslims and Christians should not engage with one another. Secondly, Africa has unique issues with terrorism, such as the proliferation of ISIS in Mozambique, Uganda, and the DRC, as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria. Should the Maarif Foundation take over a significant sector of the education system in many African countries, these issues may worsen as schools disseminate Erdogan’s ideology, which founds politics on religious principles.[xxxix] Dr. Dinse expressed his concern about the risk of destabilising African societies, saying:

“What has happened to our investment is odd for any listener (…) [i]n a country with a strong system of the rule of law and hosting the Head Office of African Union, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and many diplomatic communities, it is unbelievable that foreign investment can be taken forcefully without recourse Rule of Law.”

The Hizmet Schools were insulated from this risk because they lacked a formal link to Gulen and thus never attempted to create a global movement based solely on Gulen’s ideology. Neither the schools nor the students attempted to defend Gulen after the failed coup, nor did they directly oppose the actions of Erdogan.[xl] The schools thus remained education institutions rather than political tools. The only political activity causally linked to the Hizmet schools was protesting in defense of the schools’ autonomy and legality in the face of the Maarif Foundation’s attempted acquisitions. G. Angey (2018) documented this pushback in a case study of Senegal, wherein civil society, parents, and public officials—rather than Turks or Hizmet staff—publicly challenged the attempted transfers in court, citing the risks of losing cherished educational opportunities.[xli]

There is no possible way for the Maarif schools to be insulated from politics because the Foundation is an institution of the state and because Turkey maintains economic leverage over African governments. Hence, even if African civil society, public officials, and state bodies mobilize against the schools in more substantive ways than previously described, African governments will still be forced to comply and cooperate with Erdogan’s demands due to the economic threat of souring relations with Turkey. For instance, the Ethiopian Investment Commission notes that Turkey is the second largest investor in Ethiopia, with $2.5 billion in direct investment. Turkish companies are also the single largest employers, providing roughly 30,000 jobs.[xlii] These facts give Erdogan the power to influence—for better or for worse—the socioeconomic progress of Ethiopia, and thus the power to demand political actions from the Ethiopian government.


In summary, the Turkish government has shifted its foreign policy goals toward exporting education, especially to Africa. Initially, this shift was a product of the Gulen movement, which supported the teaching of moderation, humanitarianism, and multiculturalism. The Gulen movement inspired Hizmet schools, which lacked any explicit link to Gulen and certainly were not willed by Gulen, although they sought to continue his innovative ethos. These schools paved the way for private investment, cultural links, and educational diplomacy prior to the entrance of public representatives of the Turkish government; however, it is also true that the Hizmet schools relied on the Turkish government’s goodwill, using official networks of communication to open more schools across Africa. The rise and fall of Hizmet is, therefore, a tragedy resulting from the fluid identity of the schools. They were both a product of Turkey, since they were inspired by Gulen, financed by Turkish businessmen, and enabled by connections with public officials, and a product of local society, which, over time, came to respect and own the institutions where their children received such a high quality of education. This localisation of formal and informal ownership made the schools adopt an identity that was more African or European than Turkish. This dynamic is evident from the local, rather than international, struggle against the expropriation of the Hizmet schools.

The narratives relating to the schools are divergent, however. Many of the sources referenced in this report support the narrative that the Hizmet schools were a direct extension of the Gulen movement that intended to isolate Turkey and the AKP with a view to overthrow the government. Others support the counter-narrative that the movement and the schools are facing persecution by the Turkish government as part of its campaign for political dominance and disregard for human rights. This report advances this counter-narrative, noting the Turkish government’s escalation of propaganda against Gulen and the Hizmet schools abroad, which recalled the pre-existing fears of terrorism and instability pervasive throughout Africa and Europe. The establishment of the Maarif Foundation furthered these fears by instilling within societies where Hizmet had been successful the idea that Hizmet schools disseminated anti-government sentiment and provided a poor quality of education. The Foundation offered its own Maarif schools as an alternative, claiming they were both educationally superior and more aligned with host countries’ political goals. But the reality is that the Foundation is an extended arm of the Erdogan regime that aims to eradicate the Hizmet system, regain control over foreign relations, and acquire influence over other countries and dignitaries under the auspices of foreign civil society.


[i] Toguslu, E. (2017) ‘The Turbulence between AKP and Hizmet: The African Case’. Centre for Hizmet Studies, p. 9; see also BBC (2016) ‘Tukey coup: What is Gulen movement and what does it want?’. Available online from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36855846 [Accessed 09/07/2022]; see also Norton, J. & Kasapoglu, C. (2016) ‘Turkey’s post-coup crackdown hits ‘Gulen schools’ worldwide’. BBC. Available online from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37422822 [Accessed 09/07/2022].

[ii] Toguslu, pp. 8-9.

[iii] Ibid., pp. 10-11 & 13; see also Dipama, S. & Dal, E. P. (2019) ‘Assessing the Turkish “Trading State” in Sub-Saharan Africa’, in Dal, E. P. (eds.) (2019) Turkey’s Political Economy in the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham., pp. 250-253; see also Angey, G. (2018) ‘The Gulen Movement and the Transfer of a Political Conflict from Turkey to Senegal’. Politics, Religion & Ideology, Vol. 19(1), p. 53 (“By 2013, the Gülen Movement had over 100 schools in 50-odd countries across Africa and was collaborating closely with the Turkish state on the ground.”)

[iv] Toguslu, pp. 16-17; see also Akgun, B. & Ozkan, M. (2020) ‘Turkey’s Entrance to International Education: The Case of Turkish Foundation’. Insight Turkey, Vol. 22(1), p. 60.

[v] Stockholm Center for Freedom (2021a) ‘Turkey’s Maarif Foundation took over 216 Gulen-linked schools in 44 countries, chairman says’. Available online from: https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-maarif-foundation-took-over-216-gulen-linked-schools-in-44-countries-chairman-says/ [Accessed 16/07/2022] (In order to dissuade his followers regarding these charges, Erdogan began designated the Gulen movement as a terrorist organisation, and that these charges are merely a conspiracy to take down and usurp the government).

[vi] Dr. Sezgin likens Erdogan to Mephisto from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, explaining that Erdogan’s corrupt nature could have stopped much earlier but instead progressed towards the pinnacle moment when he felt the zeal of the public supporting him and recognized that without support, he would face persecution. The series of charges led to Erdogan committing still more corruption and criminal activity, feeding his growing paranoia and need to collect constant intelligence, growing into a vicious cycle of corruption, crimes, and lies.

[vii] Ibid., p. 7-8; see also Angey, pp. 57-58; see also Akgun & Ozkan, pp. 64-65; see also Stockholm Center for Freedom (2018) ‘Erdogan’s Islamist Maarif Foundation pushes further to replace Gulen science schools in Africa’. Available online from: https://stockholmcf.org/erdogans-islamist-maarif-foundation-pushes-further-to-replace-gulen-science-schools-in-africa/ [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[viii] Toguslu, p. 19.

[ix] Ibid.; see also Angey, p. 58.

[x] Abstract taken from the official law: https://www.global-regulation.com/translation/turkey/3393423/turkey-maarif-foundation-law.html [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xi] Toguslu, p.; Angey, p. 59.

[xii] Toguslu, pp. 19 & 20 19 (the author notes that “What the Education Ministry should be doing is being handed over to a foundation” which further indicates that the government wishes to continue acting via actors that hold a semi-public status of not exactly representing the government but still carrying out the tacitly approved conduct of its public officials); see also Angey, pp. 59-60; see also Akgun & Ozkan, p. 65 (Despite the nature of propaganda in this article, it is interesting to see how the domestic perspective of the Gulen movement’s and Hizmet schools’ respective images. It state that “In the past, the brand of ‘Turkish schools’ abroad was mostly used, popularized and even hijacked by FETO” and that the Foundation’s activities aim at “reclaiming [the] educational soft power for Turkey.”)

[xiii] Toguslu, p. 21; see also Angey, pp. 60-61; see also Donelli, p. 10; see also Tigli, I. et al. (2021) ‘Turkey’s Maarif Foundation takes over2nd FETO-linked school in Ethiopia’. Anadolu Agency. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/education/turkeys-maarif-takes-over-2nd-feto-linked-school-in-ethiopia/2305135 [Accessed 10/07/2022]; see also Daily Sabah (2021) ‘Tukey’s Maarif Foundation takes over all FETO schools in Ethiopia’. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/war-on-terror/turkeys-maarif-foundation-takes-over-all-feto-schools-in-ethiopia [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xiv] Angey, p. 60; see also Dipama & Dal, pp. 245-246, 249, and 257-263.

[xv] Daily Sabah (2016) ‘Maarif Foundation takes over FETO schools in Gabon’. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2016/12/22/maarif-foundation-take-over-feto-schools-in-gabon [Accessed 10/07/2022]

[xvi] Halil, I. & Kazanci, H. (2017) ‘Turkey takes over FETO terror group schools in Chad’. Anadolu Agency. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/turkey-takes-over-feto-terror-group-schools-in-chad/1014315 [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Paksoy, Y. (2017) ‘FETO-free era of national education begins in Guinea’. Daily Sabah. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2017/02/02/feto-free-era-of-national-education-begins-in-guinea [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xix] Yuzbasioglu, N. (2017) ‘Burundi transferring FETO schools to Turkish Foundation’. Anadolu Agency. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/burundi-transferring-feto-schools-to-turkish-foundation/908418 [Accessed 10/07/2022]; see also Tih, F. K. (2017) ‘Burundi to transfer FETO schools to Turkey’s Maarif’. Anadolu Agency. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/burundi-to-transfer-feto-schools-to-turkey-s-maarif/825981 [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xx] Daily Sabah (2017) ‘Djibouti gives Turkey’s Maarif Foundation green light to build schools’. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/education/2017/03/07/djibouti-gives-turkeys-maarif-foundation-green-light-to-build-schools [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xxi] Stockholm Centre for Freedom (2018).

[xxii] Durul, T. (2018) ‘FETO-linked school in E.Guinea handed over to Maarif Foundation’. Anadolu Agency. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/feto-linked-school-in-eguinea-handed-over-to-maarif-foundation/1255942 [Accessed 10/07/2022].

[xxiii] Turkiye Maarif Vakfi (2019) ‘Official Opening of Maarif Schools in Cameroun’. Available online from: https://turkiyemaarif.org/post/7-official-opening-of-maarif-schools-in-cameroun-615?lang=en [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxiv] Tigli, I. et al. (2021) ‘Turkey’s Maarif takes over 2nd FETO-linked school in Ethiopia’. Available online from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/education/turkeys-maarif-takes-over-2nd-feto-linked-school-in-ethiopia/2305135 [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxv] Stockholm Center for Freedom (2021b) ‘Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run schools in Ethiopia, says manager’. Available online from: https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-maarif-foundation-illegally-seized-german-run-school-in-ethiopia-says-manager/ [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Daily Sabah (2021).

[xxix] Daily Sabah (2019) ‘Maarif Foundation opens its first school in EU’. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2019/09/18/maarif-foundation-opens-its-first-school-in-eu [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxx] Stockholm Center for Freedom (2021a).

[xxxi] Usta, B. (2021) ‘Turkey’s Maarif resumes activities at full speed, taking over 214 schools across world’. Available online from: https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/war-on-terror/turkeys-maarif-resumes-activities-at-full-speed-taking-over-214-schools-across-world [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxxii] Toguslu, p. 21.

[xxxiii] Turkiye Maarif Vakfi.

[xxxiv] Toguslu, p. 21; see also Pitel, L. (2021) ‘Erdogan’s great game: Soldiers, spies and Turkey’s quest for power’. Financial Times. Available online from: https://www.ft.com/content/8052b8aa-62b9-40c9-a40c-d7187d5cd98a [Accessed 16/07/2022]; see also San, S. (2021) ‘Turkish spies are abducting Erdogan’s political opponents abroad’. Open Democracy. Available online from: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/turkish-spies-are-abducting-erdogans-political-opponents-abroad/ [Accessed 16/07/2022]; see also Vidino, L. (2019) ‘Erdogan’s Long Arm in Europe’. Foreign Policy. Available online from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/07/erdogans-long-arm-in-europe-germany-netherlands-milli-gorus-muslim-brotherhood-turkey-akp/ [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxxv] Akgun & Ozkan, p. 68.

[xxxvi] Toguslu, pp. 21-22; see also Angey, pp. 62 & 65; see also Donelli, p. 7.

[xxxvii] Toguslu, p. 22; see also Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (2018) ‘Result from PISA 2018 – Turkey’. Available online from: https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_TUR.pdf [Accessed 16/07/2022]; see also Nordic Monitor (2019) ‘Turkey’s Ensar Foundation, caught up in child sexual abuse, became OIC partner’. Available online from: https://nordicmonitor.com/2019/09/turkeys-ensar-foundation-caught-up-in-child-sexual-abuse-became-oic-partner/ [Accessed 16/07/2022].

[xxxviii] Toguslu, pp. 23-24; see also Stockholm Center for Freedom (2018)

[xxxix] Toguslu, pp. 22-23 & 24.

[xl] Angey, p. 65.

[xli] Ibid., pp. 65-66.

[xlii] Daily Sabah (2021); see also Dipama & Dal, p. 260.

Cover Image :https://hizmetnews.com/24565/kyrgyzstan-rebuffs-turkish-takeover-of-gulen-schools/#.Y3CyWnbMJPY


Nuriye Gülmen: Ein sechsjähriger Kampf gegen systematischen Missbrauch

Nuriye Gulmen

Vor fast sechs Jahren wurde die Türkei durch den mutmaßlichen Putschversuch vom 15. Juli 2016 erschüttert. Einen Tag nach dem Putschversuch verhängte die türkische Regierung rasch den Ausnahmezustand und erließ die Notstandsverordnungen Nr. 667-676. Mit diesen wurden vor allem Medien und Journalisten zensiert,[i] dessen Einfluss wurde aber am 6. Januar 2017 in den Anhängen der Verordnung Nr. 679 namentlich auf Tausende Beamte, Polizisten, Angehörige der Streitkräfte, Universitätsprofessoren und Mitarbeiter ausgedehnt.[ii]  Dies führte dazu, dass insgesamt mehr als 150 000 Menschen nicht nur ihren Arbeitsplatz, sondern auch Zugang zu sozialen Diensten verloren. Des weiteren wurden sie in ihrer Bewegungsfreiheit eingeschränkt und ihr Leben durch die Anschuldigung der Regierung beeinträchtigt. Ihr Leben wurde dadurch eingeschränkt, da sie sie mit dem Putsch in Verbindung gebracht wurden, der angeblich von Fetullah Gülen, einem türkischen Gelehrten und Geistlichen, verursacht wurde. Gülen lebt seit 1999 in den USA im Exil und weist die Anschuldigungen aus Ankara hartnäckig zurück.[iii]

Eine der Personen, die von den Folgen dieser Ereignisse betroffen ist, ist Nuriye Gülmen, eine ehemalige türkische Professorin der Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft an der Selçuk-Universität. Gülmen wurde 2012, vor dem Putschversuch 2015, als wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft an die Eskişehir Osmangazi Universität berufen.[iv] Gülmen ist nicht nur Akademikerin, sondern hat viele Erfahrungen mit Aktionismus und juristischen Kämpfen gegen den Missbrauch von Institutionen in der Türkei. Nach ihrer Ernennung wurde sie aufgrund einer politischen Klage 109 Tage lang festgehalten, wodurch sich ihr Studium und ihre Wiedereinstellung an der Eskişehir-Universität verzögerten. [v]  Der Tag, an dem sie wieder zu ihrer Forschungsstelle berufen wurde, war der Tag des Putschversuchs. Dies führte dazu, dass sie am folgenden Tag von Eskişehir suspendiert wurde. Grund dafür waren die neuen Verordnungen, in denen sie, wie Tausende mit ihr, beschuldigt wurde, Mitglied der FETO zu sein. FETO meint die sogenannte Organisation der Anhänger des im Exil lebenden Gulen, welche von Erdogan und seiner Regierung als terroristische Organisation beschuldigt wurde. Dies löste die nächste Phase in Gülmen’s Aktivistengeschichte aus, in der sie seit dem 9. November 2016 jeden Tag vor dem Menschenrechtsdenkmal in der Yüksel-Straße in Ankara gegen ihre Suspendierung und schließlich Entlassung protestierte und beharrlich ihre Stelle in Eskişehir zurückforderte, wo der Hochschulrat seinen Sitz hat, und auf ihre Forderungen eingehen muss. [vi] Gülmen erklärt, dass es sich um eine “revolutionäre Tradition” handelt, bei der es darum geht, Aufmerksamkeit zu erregen und zu bekommen, was man will. In diesem Fall ist ihr Objekt der Begierde die Aufhebung des Ausnahmezustands, die Rückkehr der entlassenen revolutionär-demokratischen Staatsbediensteten an ihren Arbeitsplatz, eine Arbeitsplatzgarantie für die 13.000 wissenschaftlichen Assistenten des OYP sowie Arbeitsplatzsicherheit für alle Beschäftigten in Bildung und Wissenschaft. [vii] Gülmen begann ihren Protest weitgehend auf eigene Faust und wurde insgesamt 26 Mal verhaftet, was auf die zunehmende Aufmerksamkeit von ausländischen und inländischen Zuschauer zurückzuführen ist, die ihre Aktionen verfolgten und ihre Erfahrungen in ihrem Online-WordPress-Blog lasen. Schließlich wurde sie von CNN als eine der acht herausragenden Frauen des Jahres 2016 an ihrem fünfzigsten Tag des Protests ernannt.[viii]


Die Aufmerksamkeit, die Gülmen zukam, wurde nach dem Dekret vom 6. Januar 2017 noch vergrößert, als Gülmen aus Eskişehir entlassen wurde. Folge dessen trat sie am 9. März 2017 in einen Hungerstreik ein und somit den nächsten Schritt anging. Während Gülmen zusammen mit dem Grundschullehrer Semih Özakça in Polizeigewahrsam saß, erlebten die Frauen die Auswirkungen der Notstandsverordnungen hautnah mit. [ix] Der Grund für den Streik war, dass verbale Proteste in der Regel zu den Werkzeugen der Aktivisten gehören, die oft nicht genug Aufmerksamkeit von den Behörden erhalten. Jedoch ist ein Hungerstreik eine starke Aktion, die die beteiligten Akteure mit den ernsthaften Gesundheitsrisiken, die auf dem Spiel stehen in eine ähnliche Position bringt, wie das, was Gülmen als “notwendig, um den Widerstand auf die nächste Ebene zu bringen” und um “wirklich Druck auf sie auszuüben, damit sie etwas unternehmen” beschreibt. [x] Als Reaktion auf den Hungerstreik wurde am 2. Mai 2017 eine Anklageschrift beim 19. Strafgerichtshof in Ankara eingereicht. In jener Anklageschrift wurden sowohl Gülmen als auch Özakça beschuldigt, Mitglieder der Revolutionären Volksbefreiungspartei-Front (DHKP-C) zu sein und an deren illegalen Aktivitäten beteiligt gewesen zu sein. Dies führte zu ihrer Inhaftierung im Sincan-Gefängnis in Ankara am 23. Mai 2017. [xi] Das Gericht befand die beiden für schuldig, weil “eine Nichtinhaftierung der Justiz schaden würde”, was angesichts des Mangels an Beweisen für die erhobenen Vorwürfe widersprüchlich erscheint. Zudem bestreiten die beiden Lehrer weiterhin jede Beteiligung an der DHKP-C. Folge dessen veröffentlichte ihr Anwalt sogar ihre Vorstrafen als Beweis für das Fehlen einer solchen Beteiligung und wirkte somit den Bemühungen von Innenminister Süleyman Soylu und des Forschungs- und Studienzentrums seines Ministeriums, die Vorwürfe zu verfestigen, entgegen.[xii]


Es wurde befürchtet, dass den beiden Lehrern weitere Menschenrechtsverletzungen drohen würden, da es Gefängniswärtern und Ärzten gesetzlich erlaubt ist, einzugreifen und einen Hungerstreik, ohne die Zustimmung der Lehrer zu beenden. Sie können auch eingreifen, wenn sie bewusstlos sind, wie es in Artikel 82 des Gesetzes über die Vollstreckung des Urteils Nr. 5275 heißt, was infolgedessen die Meinungsfreiheit verletzen würde und mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit zu grausamer, unmenschlicher oder erniedrigender Behandlung oder Bestrafung führen könnte. [xiii] Während eines Besuchs von Hakan Canduran, dem Präsidenten der Anwaltskammer Ankara, und einiger seiner Kollegen, beklagte Gülmen die schlimme Situation in der sie und Özakça sich befanden, in dem sie Canduran beschrieb, dass sie sah, dass “die Gerechtigkeit genauso schwand wie [ihre] Muskeln”. Diese Aussage gab Gülmen, während sie nicht in der Lage war, ihren Hals ohne Hilfe hochzuhalten, ihre Arme zu bewegen oder einen Stift zu halten. Im Gegenzug forderte Canduran die Regierung auf, den Hungerstreik durch gesellschaftliche Versöhnung zu beenden und mit denjenigen zu verhandeln, die unfairerweise von den Notstandsverordnungen betroffen sind.[xiv] Mitte 2017 reichte das Duo beim Verfassungsgericht und auch beim Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte einen Antrag auf Beendigung der Haft ein, mit der Begründung, dass ihr Hungerstreik inzwischen ein offensichtliches Gesundheitsrisiko darstellte. Doch beide Gerichte lehnten ihren Antrag ab, da sie diese Risiken nicht als lebensbedrohlich sahen und die entsprechenden medizinischen Maßnahmen vorhanden gewesen wären, um ihnen zu helfen, falls sie diese benötigt hätten.[xv]


Gülmens Gesundheitszustand verschlechterte sich schließlich so sehr, dass sie am 26. September 2017 in eine Insassinenzelle im Krankenhaus in Numune verlegt wurde. Sie wurde dann am 1. Dezember aus der Haft entlassen, als das 19. Schwere Strafgericht sie zu 6 Jahren und 3 Monaten Haft verurteilte, aber ihre Freilassung unter richterlicher Kontrolle zuließ.  [xvi] Trotz ihrer Freilassung setzten Gülmen und Özakça ihren Protest vor dem Menschenrechtsdenkmal fort, mussten ihren Hungerstreik aber schließlich am 26. Januar 2018 beenden, nachdem eine von der Regierung eingesetzte Kommission zur Überprüfung ihrer Fälle abgelehnt worden war. Stattdessen versuchten sie, ihre Bemühungen künftig auf das nationale Justizsystem zu richten, wobei sie betonten, dass ihr Widerstand nicht beendet sei und weitergehen werde. [xvii] Nach 324 Tagen ihres Hungerstreiks hatte Gülmen einen beträchtlichen Teil ihres ursprünglichen Gewichts von 59 Kilogramm verloren, und wog jetzt nur noch 33,8 Kilogramm, was zeigt, wie ernst ihre Bemühungen um den Erhalt ihres Arbeitsplatzes und die Achtung ihrer Rechte waren.[xviii]


Das nächste Mal stand Gülmen im Rampenlicht, als sie am 11. August 2020 bei einer Polizeirazzia am 5. August im Istanbuler Idil-Kulturzentrum, das von der linken Folk-Band Grup Yurum betrieben wird, erneut verhaftet wurde, wobei die Gründe dafür ungeklärt blieben. [xix] Später im selben Jahr wurden Gülmen und weitere ihrer Kollegen aus der Gewerkschaft für Bildung und Wissenschaft (Eğitim-Sen) ausgeschlossen, weil sie in der Öffentlichkeit als “Yüksel-Widerständler” oder Widerstandskämpfer dargestellt wurden..[xx] Zuletzt hatten die beiden am 4. November 2021 vor dem Verfassungsgericht geklagt, das später ihre Aussage zurückwies. Gülmen und Özakça klagten mit dem Grund, dass die Anklage vom 2. Mai 2017 dieselben Beweise verwendet habe wie eine frühere Untersuchung vom 14. März 2017, die zu ihrer Verhaftung geführt hatte. Diese Anklage wurde aber später abgewiesen und sie wurde unter richterlicher Kontrolle freigelassen. [xxi] Das Gericht wies ihre Klage mit der Begründung ab, dass es Gülmen und Özakça an konkreten Beweisen fehle und deswegen ihre verletzten Rechte nicht geltend gemacht werden könnten. Zudem hätten die beiden nicht alle innerstaatlichen Möglichkeiten ausgeschöpft, bevor sie ihre Klage einreichten.[xxii]


Nuriye Gülmens mutiger Aktivismus macht deutlich, dass die türkische Regierung seit 2016 Hunderttausende von Menschen mit haltlosen Argumenten zu Unrecht ins Visier genommen hat. Diejenigen, die am stärksten betroffen sind und sich entscheiden, sich den Maßnahmen der Regierung zu widersetzen, sind erheblicher Unterdrückung durch Inhaftierung und rechtliche Einschüchterung ausgesetzt. Broken Chalk fordert die türkische Regierung und die zuständigen Behörden auf, ihre Maßnahmen ernsthaft zu überdenken, die dazu geführt haben, dass Tausende von Menschen weder einen sicheren Arbeitsplatz haben, noch die Möglichkeit, das Land zu verlassen und im Ausland Arbeit zu finden. Broken Chalk fordert insbesondere die Wiedereinsetzung von Nuriye Gülmen und Semih Özakça nebst vielen anderen in ihre jeweiligen Positionen im Bildungsbereich. Der Verlust ihrer Arbeitsstellen hat den Zugang und die Qualität der Bildung in der Türkei sicherlich verringert.


von Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Erika Grimes

Translated by Vivien Kretz from https://brokenchalk.org/nuriye-gulmen-a-six-year-struggle-against-systematic-abuses/


[i] Grabenwarter, C. et al. (2017) ‘Draft Opinion on the Measures Provided in the Recent Emergency Decree Laws with Respect to Freedom of the Media’. European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission). Available online from: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL(2017)006-e [Accessed on 08/03/2022], pp. 3-4.

[ii] Decree-Law No. 679 (6th January 2017) ‘Measures Regarding Public Personnel’. Available online from: https://insanhaklarimerkezi.bilgi.edu.tr/media/uploads/2017/02/09/KHK_679_ENG.pdf [Accessed 08/03/2022], p. 1.

[iii] Jones, T. (2018) ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.  DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/two-turkish-teachers-end-almost-11-month-hunger-strike/a-42318478 [Accessed 08/03/2022]; Işık, A. (2017) ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like my Muscles’’. DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/in-turkey-hope-for-justice-is-fading-away-just-like-my-muscles/a-39482207 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[iv] Halavut, H. (2017) ‘Interview with Nuriye Gülmen: ‘I Have More Hope Today Than I Did on the First Day’’.  5 Harliler. Available online from: https://www.5harfliler.com/interview-with-nuriye-gulmen/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.; see also Gülmen, N. (2016) ‘DİRENİŞİN TALEPLERi’. Available online from: https://nuriyegulmendireniyor.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/basin-aciklamasina-cagri/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Wikipedia (2022) ‘Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuriye_G%C3%BClmen#cite_note-18 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.; see also Amnesty International (2017) ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Hunger Strikers’ Wellbeing’. Available online from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/EUR4463402017ENGLISH.pdf [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[x] Ibid.

[xi] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’.

[xii] Cumhuriyet (2017) ‘Criminal Record of Gülmen and Özakça, Declared ‘Terrorists’ by Minister Soylu’. Available online from: https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/bakan-soylunun-terorist-ilan-ettigi-gulmen-ve-ozakcanin-adli-sicil-kaydi-748105 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also NTV (2017) ‘Statements by Minister Soylu about Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/bakan-soyludan-aclik-grevi-yapan-nuriye-gulmenle-ilgili-aciklamalar,Jg2i0I634EyPWqK_cXdIbg [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Milliyet (2017) ‘The Unending Scenario of a Terrorist Organisation: “The Truth of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça”’. Available online from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170813220846/http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bir-teror-orgutunun-bitmeyen-senaryosu-ankara-yerelhaber-2179760/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xiii] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’; see also ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xiv] ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xv] Armutcu, O. (2017) ‘The Constitutional Court Rejected the Appeal Against the Detention of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça’ Hurriyet. Available online from: https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/anayasa-mahkemesi-nuriye-gulmen-ve-semih-ozakcanin-tutukluluguna-yapilan-itirazi-reddetti-40503721 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Cakir, A. (2017) ‘ECHR Rejects Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’s Application’. Voice of America. Available online from: https://www.amerikaninsesi.com/a/aihm-semih-ozakca-ve-nuriye-gulmen-in-basvurusunu-reddetti/3969669.html [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xvi] Bianet (2017) ‘Nuriye Gülmen Released’. Available online from: https://bianet.org/english/human-rights/192100-nuriye-gulmen-released [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xvii] ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Duvar English (2020) ‘Dismissed Turkish Academic, Known for Hunger Strike, Arrested Again’. Available online from: https://www.duvarenglish.com/human-rights/2020/08/11/dismissed-turkish-academic-known-for-hunger-strike-arrested-again [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xx] Yeni Bir Mecra (2020) ‘Critical Decisions in Eğitim-Sen: Nuriye Gülmen was Expelled’. Available online from: https://yeni1mecra.com/egitim-sende-kritik-kararlar-nuriye-gulmen-ihrac-edildi/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xi] Duvar English (2021) ‘Turkey’s Top Court Rules Dismissed Educators’ Rights Not Violated’. Available online from: https://www.duvarenglish.com/turkeys-top-court-rules-rights-of-dismissed-educators-nuriye-gulmen-and-semih-ozakca-not-violated-news-59436 [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xii] Ibid.

Educational Challenges in the Republic of Kenya

Educational Challenges in the Republic of Kenya

Kenya’s educational development has been impacted by numerous factors, such as being a colony of the British Empire from 1895 until 1963 and becoming a Republic in 1964[i]. Kenya currently has a population of 53.77 million people who speak a total of 42 ethnic languages[ii]. There are various national authorities for education, such as the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya, the Commission for University Education, the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC), and the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC);[iii] as well as international influence for quality education, especially the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).[iv] All these contributed to the development of a system that promotes access, quality, and attainable standards, enshrining the right to education in the constitutional revision of 2010 and through the Basic Education Act of 2013.[v] However, this progress may be outweighed by negative results, leading to general issues we see globally but also issues specific to the Kenyan context with regards to indigenous communities, education agencies, and the teacher training of educators.

General Educational Challenges

In 2020 there were 18 million students in Kenya, 15 million in primary and secondary schools, following a format known as the ‘8-4-4’ system of eight years in primary, four years in secondary, and another four in post-secondary education as a result of policies that sought to fulfil the MDG of  universal primary education, quality education for all (EFA). The current government policy aimed at a 100% student transition from primary to secondary education helped to increase this ratio from 83% in 2018 to 95% in 2020, dedicating 95.7% of total expenditure to enhance public primary education.[vi] The government and private sector also came together to adopt joint funding mechanisms to provide both basic education but also eradicate poverty, allowing for tuition fees to be waived for primary education first, but gradually doing so for public day secondary education too, despite the fact that parents continue to pay for uniforms, meals, transport, and learning materials.[vii]

The digital media organization Tafuta Kenya refers to the Kenyan education system as a ‘state of crisis’ because of issues like gender disparity for girls in education due to traditional, cultural beliefs in 23 counties; the high drop-out rates due to poverty, child labour, drugs, poor health; inadequate facilities such as not having enough public schools, desks, chairs, textbooks; the high rate of absenteeism of educators in classrooms partially tied to frequent strikes for better working conditions and salaries; and the persistent trend of political influence that leads to corrupt embezzlement of funds that disrupts resource allocation and planning.[viii] More than 1.2 million children of primary age are not enrolled in primary school, with orphans especially vulnerable in this respect, and that only roughly 1% of Kenyan youth are in university because of the high tuition fees and the lack of access to youths from lower socio-economic backgrounds, leaving those aged between 15-24 years old the largest age group in terms of unemployment rates.[ix]children sitting on chairs inside classroomPhoto by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

The main reason for these issues is that poverty remains rife in Kenya, with the World Poverty Clock estimating that 11 million Kenyans live on less than $1.90 per day, worsening the issue of hunger as one in every four children experiences stunting as a result of homes not having enough food to feed their children who are at risk of having undeveloped brains.[x] A 2014 study by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) concluded that the level of education held by parents is a firm indication of the level of the poverty that children may face which hinders their access to education and increases socio-economic disparities.[xi] In a similar vein, a 2019 study by Abuya et al. concluded that children from single parent households were less likely to be in primary education at the right age in comparison to children living in two-parent households, standing at 66% and 74% respectively, and that children living with guardians were 23% less likely to be in the primary education at the right age, with the data based on gender, educational attainment, household income, the number of siblings, and the educational institution, to display the impact of socio-economic resources being available to invest in children’s education.[xii]

These issues directly challenge the ‘Vision 2030’ national development plan of Kenya, whose budget increased by 50% to make education competitive with other systems globally and raise the quality of life. However, it resulted in bad planning because millions of students who dropped out in the past due to poverty returned which led to overcrowded classrooms, leaving teachers overwhelmed with the task of handling sometimes three classrooms with their respective behavioural challenges.[xiii] With over eight million students being accommodated by 216,517 teachers in primary schools, the average of 50 students per teacher in Nairobi, 92 students per teacher in Turkana, and 200 students per classroom in Kibera Olympic School is evidence that the system is pressured.[xiv]

In this situation, girls remain vulnerable since they continue to face ‘archaic’ traditions and parents who fear that sending their daughters to school would be a waste of resources, seeing them better fit to handle chores, care for their siblings, and travel long distances for water. Girls are also often forced into early marriages and pregnancies in exchange for economic and social benefits, remaining 2.5 times more likely to face gender-based violence (GBV) given Kenya’s recent history of internal and transboundary conflict.[xv] The activities of Flying Kites, an organisation focused on improving education by meeting the needs of individual students, has expressed the importance of investing in girls not only for gender equity, but also because girls can be seen as agents of change and boosting their access to Guidance, Information, Resources, Leadership, and Skills (G.I.R.L.S.).[xvi] One priority is sanitation standards which results in some girls leaving education because they cannot afford sanitary pads, wherein one in every ten 15-year-old girls do not have such access and would resort to engaging in sexual activities to get money for such products, leading to more early pregnancies and less time to focus on education.[xvii]

The outbreak of COVID-19 negatively impacted the past and current education policies, highlighting the lack of prepared plans to tackle the shift to remote, distance, and online alternatives of learning. It is noteworthy that Kenya’s Ministry of Education (MoE) had launched a disaster management policy in July 2018 but only addressed the effects of heavy rains, wildfires, and promoting peace and safety but did not expand the aim of common safety guidelines to prevent the disruption of education as a result of diseases, especially considering the past outbreaks of malaria, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika across Africa.[xviii] Instead, the pandemic highlighted the inadequate ICT infrastructure given the fact that the government leaned on broadcasting education when only 17% of Kenya has access to broadband and students living in rural regions did not own digital devices; only 42% of children had access to a television and 19% to a radio, resulting in a higher rate of child labour since 16% and 8% of girls and boys respectively did not return to education when schools reopened on 4th January 2021; put at risk 150,000 refugee students who were confined in a so-called home when schools closed on 15th March 2020; and increased poverty since children lost access to school meals, and increased the rates of GBV, early marriages and pregnancies for girls.[xix] This was also reflected in the lack of digital and e-learning skills that teachers held, leading to a lack of preparation to shift to remote learning and aiding students to engage as e-learners, losing the crucial teacher-learner connection that ensures a steady transfer of knowledge.[xx]

Lack of Educational Planning & Low Educator Qualifications

There is a clear mismatch of resources to meet the needs of education for students which require proper education planning policies that implement logical mechanisms that set goals according to needs by systematically, strategically, and optimally utilizing the limited number of resources for an efficient system.[xxi] But without qualified planners, statisticians, analysts, the right tools such as computers and calculating machines, and accurate data, the system buckles under issues that hinder developing a system that safeguards against future problems, especially given the political instability that underlies the system as different political beliefs disrupt a consistent and coherent flow of government activities.[xxii] Furthermore, planners need to expand teachers’ salaries and promotion tracks, issues that result in teachers taking on other jobs to make ends meet which increases teacher absenteeism.[xxiii]

The system must be buttressed by educators who are properly trained and qualified which are obligations that fall under the TSC as mandated by the constitution to register, recruit, assign, promote the transfer, exert discipline, review, and even terminate the employment of teachers within the education system, all the while maintaining a set of standards that teacher training is based upon.[xxiv] Therefore, the task of supplying and maintaining teachers must retain transformational, holistic, creative, yet professional mindsets which Jonyo & Jonyo (2017) have argued has failed to address that teachers are understaffed, digitally illiterate, are not monitored and evaluated according to set standards, aim for low targets with an inadequate infrastructure, and through unionisation resist the development of the 2015 Teacher Performance Appraisal and Development that seeks to strengthen the status of the teacher as a leader of curriculum implementation but instead is feared as a ‘weeding’ exercise for incapable individuals.[xxv] Teacher training needs to change so that prior to entering a classroom, and also through professional development to attain new skills, they can fuse teaching the curriculum with an inflation of digital, automated capabilities that collect data to increase performance and service delivery, as well as expand the apprenticeship model established for junior teachers to train alongside senior teachers with leadership training so that they can manage in-class responsibilities whilst taking note of any changes that require teachers to adjust practices.[xxvi]

Tied to teacher training is amending pedagogical methods of teaching and students assessment which Akala (2021) has argued remains attached to the ‘recall of trivial information’ that is dense for students to remember through ‘rote learning’ by drilling information into memory to then be regurgitated in exams.[xxvii] What is instead being called for is to balance these methods with a competency based curriculum (CBC) whereby students are taught to attain:

‘sufficient practical skill and knowledge to perform the activity or service to a degree and quality that is acceptable to the industry and the customer in a time within which a competent person at the level could reasonably be expected to perform the task.’[xxviii]

CBC is arguably better than an examination-focused mode of teaching because it allows students to retain what they learned in a measurable way that empowers them beyond simply assessment and instead produces positive learning experiences of support and meeting their needs in education. This can help to reduce tension resulting from competitive academic performance that demands good grades to attain quality education and bars students from having the space to relax and develop social skills.[xxix]

Exclusion of Indigenous Culture & Language

Lastly, as a consequence of colonialism, Kenya continues to exclude indigenous languages and cultures from education, perpetuating a sense of ‘negative ethnicity’ that prioritises the content, teaching methods, and outcomes that remain inherently English- or Western-focused.[xxx] The 2019 study by Ng’asike observed this issue from the perspective of the Turkana community, showing how the community remained at a significant disadvantage of developing their learning and skills attainment capacities, especially in terms of language learning, arguing that there is ample evidence from other countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and South Africa  of the benefits that result from the inclusion of students’ mother tongues, be it Kiswahili, Turkana or any of the other ethnic languages spoken outside school.[xxxi]

Instead, parents, agencies, and communities continue to see the practice of the mother tongue as ‘backward’ or ‘tribalism’ and including indigenous knowledge within educational settings risks students being placed at a disadvantage to learn English.[xxxii] Ng’asike (2019) explained the benefits of including mother tongues and indigenous knowledge in education. Students coming from these communities have already adopted ways of associating the world through their mother tongue and cultural practices which provides a foundation on which educators can create bridges of understanding that helps them to progress onto curricular topics and language learning further down the education system. The study also suggests the use of story books in English, Kiswahili and the mother tongue as a primary tool in the early stages of education which would allow students, parents and the wider community to engage in storytelling, increase student and adult literacy, and alternative, supplementary materials that depart from the rigidity of what is considered important in the curricula or materials that ‘become vehicles of passive transmission of Western values.’[xxxiii]


It is evident that Kenyan education faces many challenges that spill over into socio-economic, political, and cultural issues. However, the system is willing to address these issues and provide solutions, making space for private and non-governmental actors to assist improving the system. To mention a few programmes of importance: Tusome[xxxiv] is a national programme that provided a total of 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials to students in 1,384 primary schools to increase literacy rates; the latter is complemented by the 2016 digital literacy programme (DLP) that successfully provided 1.2 million devices to 21,718 primary schools and increased attention and enrolment as well as creating over 11,000 jobs in the field of ICT; and lastly, the Home-Grown Feed Model (HGFM) that built on school meals in a holistic manner by adopting a community-growth model that approaches local farmers to sell their products to schools, supporting both the local market economy alongside nutritiously dense diets for students which contributes to the global goal of zero hunger.[xxxv]

Written by Karl Baldacchino


Featured Image from :Photo by Oscar Omondi on Unsplash

[i] Ndemwa, N. & Otani, M. (2020) ‘Education System in Kenya – Its Current Condition and Challenges’. Memoirs of the Faculty of Education, Shimane University, p. 15.

[ii] Ibid.; see also Ng’asike, J. T. (2019) ‘Indigenous Knowledge Practices for Sustainable Lifelong Education in Pastoralist Communities of Kenya’.  International Review of Education, Vol. 65, p. 22.

[iii] Ibid., pp. 18 & 19; see also Ng’asike, p.21

[iv] Ibid., p. 16.

[v] Ibid., pp. 19; see also Jonyo, D. O. & Jonyo, B. O. (2017) ‘Teacher Management: Emerging Issues in Kenya’. European Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 4(1), p. 19; see also Jesse, N. W. (2021) ‘Effective Ways of Overcoming Challenges Facing High School Teachers in Kenya’. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 11(1), p. 45; see also Ngwacho, A. G. (2020) ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Kenya Education Sector: Leaner Challenges and Mitigations’.  Journal of Research Innovation and Implementation Education, Vol 4(2), pp. 129-130.

[vi] Ibid., p. 16; see also Kibaara, J. M. (2021) ‘Kenya’s Education Goals Face the Challenges of Affordability, Traditions and COVID-19. The Conversation. Available online from: https://theconversation.com/kenyas-education-goals-face-the-challenges-of-affordability-traditions-and-covid-19-168113 [Accessed 04/05/2022]; see also Abuya, B. A. (2021) ‘Securing the Education of Kenya’s Girls During COVID-19’. The Conversation. Available online from: https://theconversation.com/securing-the-education-of-kenyas-girls-during-covid-19-154871 [Accessed on 04/05/2022]; see also Akala, B. M. (2021) ‘Revisiting Education Reform in Kenya: A Case of Competency Based Curriculum (CBC)’. Social Studies & Humanities Open, Vol. 3, p. 2; see also Jensen, A. (2019) ‘Enhancing Digital Education in Kenya’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/digital-education-in-kenya/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022]; Brock, H. (2021) ‘Continued Education for Vulnerable Children in Kenya’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/vulnerable-children-in-kenya/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022].

[vii] Kibaara.

[viii] Tafuta Kenya, ‘Challenges Facing Education in Kenya and Solutions’. Available online from: https://tafutakenya.com/challenges-facing-education-in-kenya-and-solutions/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022]; see also Samuel (2022) ‘Challenges Facing Educational Planning in Kenya’. World Student Forum. Available online from: https://worldstudentforum.com/challenges-facing-educational-planning-in-kenya/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022]; see also Ndemwa & Otoni, pp. 19-20 & 23-24; see also Jonyo & Jonyo, pp. 21 & 34-36; see also Jesse, pp. 46-48; see also Akala, pp. 1 & 2.

[ix] Brock.

[x] Manning, G. (2021) ‘Education in Kenya is a Path Out of Poverty’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/education-in-kenya/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022]; Ngwacho, p. 133.

[xi] Brock.

[xii] Abuya, B. A. et al. (2019) ‘Family Structure and Child Educational Attainment in the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya’. Sage Open, April-June 2019, pp. 1-2 & 5-8.

[xiii] Ibid.; see also Kabaara; see also Jonyo & Jonyo, p. 25; see also Jesse, p.48; see also Akala, p. 2.

[xiv] Ibid.; see also Ndemwa & Otoni, pp. 16-17; see also Kibaara.

[xv] Abuya; see also Tafuta Kenya; see also Ndemwa & Otoni, pp. 23-24; see also Olk, S. (2019) ‘Overcoming Barriers to Education for Internally Displaced Children’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/education-for-internally-displaced-children/ [Accessed on 04/05/2022].

[xvi] Manning.

[xvii] Ibid.; see also Tafuta Kenya; see also

[xviii] Ngwacho, p. 131

[xix] Ibid., pp. 133-134; see also Kibuku, R. N. et al. (2020) ‘e-Learning Challenges Faced by Universities in Kenya: A Literature Review’.  The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, Vol. 18(2), pp. 153-154; see also Brock; see also Kibaara; see also Abuya; see also Manning.

[xx] Kibuku et al., pp. 154 & 156-157.

[xxi] Samuel.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Tafuta Kenya.

[xxiv] Ndemwa & Otoni, p. 19.

[xxv] Jonyo & Jonyo, pp. 23-26.

[xxvi] Ibid., pp. 32 & 36-37.

[xxvii] Akala, pp. 1, 2 & 4; see also Ng’asike, pp. 27, 35 & 37; see also Tafuta Kenya.

[xxviii] Ibid., p. 2.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 3; see also Ndemwa & Otoni, pp. 17 & 23.

[xxx] Ibid., p. 7; see also Ng’asike, pp. 22-24 who gives a good indication how historical progress during and after colonial regimes impact the access of indigenous communities to a quality education.

[xxxi] Ng’asike, pp. 37-39

[xxxii] Ibid., pp. 24, 28, 37 & 40.

[xxxiii] Ibid., pp. 27, 30-33, 36-37 & 41

[xxxiv] ‘Let’s read’ in Kiswahili’.

[xxxv] Jensen; see also Maria, J. (2020) ‘Tusome: Powering Childhood Learning in Kenya’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/tusome-powering-childhood-learning-in-kenya/ [Accessed on 05/05/2022]; see also Clausen, A. (2020) ‘The Home-Grown School Feeding Model Tackles Zero Hunger’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/home-grown-school-feeding/ [Accessed on 05/05/2022].

Nuriye Gülmen: Hatéves küzdelem a Törökországban történő rendszeres visszaélések ellen

Nuriye Gulmen

Közel hat évvel ezelőtt, 2016. július 15-én Törökországot megrázta egy puccskísérlet, amelyet a török kormány szerint Fetullah Gülen, az 1999 óta az Egyesült Államokban önszántából száműzetésben élő török tudós-klerikus tervelt ki. Gülen kitartóan tagad minden ilyen jellegű vádat.[i] A kísérletet követő napon a török kormány szükségállapotot rendelt el, és elfogadta a 667-676. számú sürgősségi végrehajtási rendeleteket, amelyek elsősorban a médiát és az újságírókat cenzúrázták,[ii] majd 2017. január 6-án a 679. számú rendelet mellékleteiben név szerint kiterjesztette a hatályt több ezer köztisztviselőre, rendőrre, fegyveres erő alkalmazottjára, egyetemi tanárra és más egyetemi alkalmazottakra.[iii] Ennek következtében összesen több mint 150 000 ember veszítette el az állását, a szociális szolgáltatásokhoz való hozzáférését, mozgásszabadságukat korlátozták, és életük folyásának meghatározó részévé vált a kormány azon vádja, hogy kapcsolatban álltak a puccsal.


Ezen események által érintett személlyé vált Nuriye Gülmen is, aki 2012-ben még a Selçuk Egyetem török összehasonlító irodalomtudományi professzoraként dolgozott, a puccskísérletet megelőzően, 2015-ben pedig az Eskişehir Osmangazi Egyetem kutatóasszisztenseként tevékenykedett.[iv] Gülmen akadémiai tevékenységei mellett a törökországi intézményekben történő visszaélések elleni aktivizmus és jogi csaták történetével is foglalkozott, mivel professzori kinevezése után személyesen is érintetté vált egy politikai perben, melynek során 109 napig volt jogtalanul őrizetben. Ez késleltette tanulmányait és az Eskişehirbe való visszahelyezését is.[v]

Gülment pont a puccskísérlet napján helyezték vissza kutatói állásába azonban az események fényében másnap az Eskişehirből újból felfüggesztették azon frissen kiadott rendeletek nyomán, amelyek több ezer tudóssal együtt Gülment is azzal vádolták, hogy tagja a FETÖ-nek, azaz a török kormány által terrorista szervezetnek nyilvánított Gülent támogató mozgalomnak.

Amikor Gülment 2016. november 9-én felfüggesztették, aktív ellenállásba kezdett. Gülmen a jogtalan felfüggesztések és elbocsájtások ellen tiltakozott és minden nap kitartóan követelte az Eskişehiri pozíciójába való visszahelyezését az ankarai Yüksel utcában található Emberi Jogi Emlékmű előtt. Az emlékmű a Felsőoktatási Tanács székhelyénél van elhelyezve, mely intézménynek hivatali kötelessége lenne válaszolni minden felsőoktatási rendszerben történő igazságtalansággal kapcsolatban megfogalmazott követelésre, így Gülmenére is.[vi] Az Emberi Jogi Emlékmű előtt történő tiltakozás Gülmen szerint egy „forradalmi hagyomány” volt, amelynek célja a figyelem felkeltése és nyomásgyakorlás a kitűzött cél eléréséhez, ebben az esetben a szükségállapot megszüntetésének és az közalkalmazotti és tudományos területen történt elbocsátások semmissé tételének eléréséhez.[vii]

Gülmen egyedül kezdte meg a tiltakozást, mely során összesen 26 alkalommal tartóztatták le. Tevékenységét egyre nagyobb érdeklődéssel követte nyomon mind a külföldi és a hazai sajtó: az online WordPress blogján publikálták Gülmen tapasztalatait megmozdulásaival kapcsolatban, míg a CNN a 2016-os év nyolc kiemelkedő nője közé választotta Gülment tiltakozásának ötvenedik napján.[viii] A nőt érő figyelem még jelentősebbé vált a 2017. január 6-i kormányrendelet után, mely értelmében többek között Gülment is végleg elbocsátották az Eskişehirből.

A nő ennek következtében ellenállási stratégiáit új szintre emelte, és 2017. március 9-én éhségsztrájkba kezdett Semih Özakça általános iskolai tanárral együtt.[ix] Az éhségsztrájk hatására 2017. május 2-án a kormány vádiratot nyújtott be az ankarai büntetőbírósághoz, amelyben Gülment és Özakçát a terrorszervezetként nyilvántartott Forradalmi Népi Felszabadítási Párt-Front (DHKP-C) tagjaiként azonosították és azzal vádolták őket, hogy részt vesznek a párt tiltott tevékenységeiben. A vádirat nyomán Gülmen és Özakça 2017. május 23-ig rendőrségi őrizetbe került és az ankarai Sincan börtönben raboskodott.[x] A bíróság azzal indokolta letartóztatásukat, hogy „szabadlábon akadályoznák az igazságszolgáltatást”. A bíróság indoklása azonban nem volt megalapozott, tekintve, hogy a két tanár ellen benyújtott vádak nem tartalmaztak bizonyítékokat, továbbá Gülmen és Özakça is tagadta a DHKP-C-vel való bármilyen kapcsolatát. Ennek alátámasztására a tanárok ügyvédje még a bűnügyi nyilvántartásukat is nyilvánosságra hozta, hogy bebizonyítsa, Gülmennek és Özakçának semmilyen kapcsolata nincs a szervezettel. Mindeközben Szulejmán Soylu belügyminiszter és minisztériumának kutatási és tanulmányi központja mindent megtett, hogy megszilárdítsák a vádakat a tanárok ellen.[xi]


A tanárok további emberi jogi jogsértésekkel néztek szembe, mivel a börtönőrök a törvény szerint az érintett személyek beleegyezése nélkül is beavatkozhatnak és véget vethetnek az éhségsztrájknak. Ez azonban sérti a véleménynyilvánítás szabadságát, és kegyetlen, embertelen és megalázó bánásmódot vagy büntetést is eredményezhet az érintett személyek irányába.[xii]

Az Ankarai Ügyvédi Kamara elnöke, Hakan Canduran és néhány kollégájának látogatása során Gülmen kifejezte, milyen szörnyű helyzetbe kerültek Özakçával, ahol „az igazságszolgáltatás éppúgy épül le, mint [Gülmen] izmai” az éhségsztrájk következtében. Ekkor a nő már képtelen volt nyakát segítség nélkül felemelni, mozgatni a karját vagy tollat fogni. Canduran ennek hatására felszólította a kormányt, hogy a társadalmi megbékélés érdekében vessen véget az éhségsztrájknak, és tárgyaljon a tanárokkal és azokkal, akiket igazságtalanul érintettek a szükségállapot-rendeletek.[xiii] Ezen kérések azonban nem teljesültek, így 2017 közepén Gülmen és Özakça az Alkotmánybírósághoz és az Emberi Jogok Európai Bíróságához is beadvánnyal fordult szabadságvesztésük megszüntetése érdekében, mivel éhségsztrájkjuk addigra már nyilvánvaló egészségügyi kockázatot jelentett. Keresetüket azonban mindkét bíróság elutasította arra hivatkozva, hogy az éhségsztrájk következtében felmerülő kockázatok nem voltak életveszélyesek, illetve életveszély esetén is a megfelelő orvosi intézkedések állnának rendelkezésükre.[xiv]

Gülmen egészségi állapota egyre súlyosabbá vált, így végül 2017. szeptember 26-án átszállították a Numune kórházi cellába. Közben a bíróság Gülment bűnösnek találta a DHKP-C-vel fenntartott (állítólagos) kapcsolatai miatt, és 6 év 3 hónap börtönbüntetésre ítélte. Azonban Gülmen a bíróság döntése elleni fellebbezésének elbírálásáig és Özakça októberi szabadlábra helyezése után, december 1-jén végül a nőt is szabadon engedték bírósági felügyelet mellett.[xv]

Szabadulásukkal Gülmen és Özakça folytatták tiltakozásukat az Emberi Jogi Emlékmű előtt, azonban 2018. január 26-án felhagytak az éhségsztrájkkal, miután a Szükségállapoti Kormánybizottság elutasította őket, mely bizottság a munkájukból a szükségállapot elrendelésével felmentett dolgozók fellebbezését vizsgálta felül. Gülmen és Özakça így újból az igazságszolgáltatási rendszerben igyekeztek erőfeszítéseiknek érvényt szerezni, hangsúlyozva, hogy ellenállásuk nem ért véget.[xvi] A 324 napos éhségsztrájk után Gülmen 59 kilogrammról 33,8 kilogrammra fogyott, mely demonstrálja a nő elkötelezettségét követelései mellett, vagyis a kormány visszaéléseinek megszüntetését, munkahelyi pozíciókba történő visszahelyezéseket, illetve emberi jogok tiszteletben tartását.[xvii]

Gülmen legközelebb akkor került reflektorfénybe, amikor 2020. augusztus 11-én tisztázatlan körülmények között ismét letartóztatták az isztambuli Idil kulturális központban tartott rendőrségi razzia során, mely központot a Grup Yurum nevű baloldali népzenei együttes működtette.[xviii] Még abban az évben Gülment és más letartóztatott személyeket kizártak az Oktatási és Tudományos Dolgozók Szakszervezetéből (Eğitim-Sen), mivel a nyilvánosság előtt „Yüksel Resistanceistaként”, azaz ellenállóként szerepeltek.[xix]

Az utolsó nyomon követhető fejlemény Gülmennel és Özakçával kapcsolatban 2021. november 4-én történt, amikor a páros az Alkotmánybírósághoz fordult az őket ért jogsérelmekkel kapcsolatban. Ezen beadványukat azonban elutasították arra hivatkozva, hogy egy régebbi ügy során ugyanezeket a bizonyítékokat mutatták be a tanárok, valamint, hogy beadványuk nem tartalmazott konkrét bizonyítékokat azzal kapcsolatban, hogy valóban jogsérelem érte őket munkahelyi pozíciójuk elvesztése és letartóztatásuk során. A bíróság azt is szóvá tette, hogy szerinte a két tanár nem merített ki minden hazai eszközt ügyük érdekében az Alkotmánybírósághoz benyújtott keresetük előtt.[xx]

Nuriye Gülmen történetén keresztül kirajzolódik, hogyan vett a török kormány és intézkedéseik több százezer embert igazságtalanul és alaptalanul célba 2016 óta. Akik pedig úgy döntöttek, hogy ezen igazságtalanságokkal szembe szállnak, súlyos retorzióval és elnyomással néztek és néznek szembe a mai napig.

A Broken Chalk felszólítja a török kormányt és az érintett hatóságokat, hogy komolyan vizsgálják felül intézkedéseiket, melyek ezreket fosztottak meg munkahelyeiktől vagy akár a lehetőségtől, hogy elhagyhassák Törökországot. A szervezet különösen fontosnak tartja Nuriye Gülmen és Semih Özakça, és a velük hasonló sorsra jutott személyek visszahelyezését az oktatás területén betöltött pozícióikba, ugyanis eltávolításuk minden bizonnyal csökkentette az oktatáshoz való hozzáférést és annak minőségét Törökországban.



Írta: Karl Baldacchino

Fordította: Farkas Johanna

Translated from : https://brokenchalk.org/nuriye-gulmen-a-six-year-struggle-against-systematic-abuses/


[i] Jones, T. (2018) ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.  DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/two-turkish-teachers-end-almost-11-month-hunger-strike/a-42318478 [Accessed 08/03/2022]; Işık, A. (2017) ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like my Muscles’’. DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/in-turkey-hope-for-justice-is-fading-away-just-like-my-muscles/a-39482207 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[ii] Grabenwarter, C. et al. (2017) ‘Draft Opinion on the Measures Provided in the Recent Emergency Decree Laws with Respect to Freedom of the Media’. European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission). Available online from: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL(2017)006-e [Accessed on 08/03/2022], pp. 3-4.

[iii] Decree-Law No. 679 (6th January 2017) ‘Measures Regarding Public Personnel’. Available online from: https://insanhaklarimerkezi.bilgi.edu.tr/media/uploads/2017/02/09/KHK_679_ENG.pdf [Accessed 08/03/2022], p. 1.

[iv] Halavut, H. (2017) ‘Interview with Nuriye Gülmen: ‘I Have More Hope Today Than I Did on the First Day’’.  5 Harliler. Available online from: https://www.5harfliler.com/interview-with-nuriye-gulmen/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.; see also Gülmen, N. (2016) ‘DİRENİŞİN TALEPLERi’. Available online from: https://nuriyegulmendireniyor.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/basin-aciklamasina-cagri/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Wikipedia (2022) ‘Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuriye_G%C3%BClmen#cite_note-18 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.; see also Amnesty International (2017) ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Hunger Strikers’ Wellbeing’. Available online from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/EUR4463402017ENGLISH.pdf [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[x] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’.

[xi] Cumhuriyet (2017) ‘Criminal Record of Gülmen and Özakça, Declared ‘Terrorists’ by Minister Soylu’. Available online from: https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/bakan-soylunun-terorist-ilan-ettigi-gulmen-ve-ozakcanin-adli-sicil-kaydi-748105 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also NTV (2017) ‘Statements by Minister Soylu about Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/bakan-soyludan-aclik-grevi-yapan-nuriye-gulmenle-ilgili-aciklamalar,Jg2i0I634EyPWqK_cXdIbg [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Milliyet (2017) ‘The Unending Scenario of a Terrorist Organisation: “The Truth of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça”’. Available online from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170813220846/http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bir-teror-orgutunun-bitmeyen-senaryosu-ankara-yerelhaber-2179760/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xii] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’; see also ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xiii] ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xiv] Armutcu, O. (2017) ‘The Constitutional Court Rejected the Appeal Against the Detention of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça’ Hurriyet. Available online from: https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/anayasa-mahkemesi-nuriye-gulmen-ve-semih-ozakcanin-tutukluluguna-yapilan-itirazi-reddetti-40503721 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Cakir, A. (2017) ‘ECHR Rejects Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’s Application’. Voice of America. Available online from: https://www.amerikaninsesi.com/a/aihm-semih-ozakca-ve-nuriye-gulmen-in-basvurusunu-reddetti/3969669.html [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xv] Bianet (2017) ‘Nuriye Gülmen Released’. Available online from: https://bianet.org/english/human-rights/192100-nuriye-gulmen-released [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xvi] ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Duvar English (2020) ‘Dismissed Turkish Academic, Known for Hunger Strike, Arrested Again’. Available online from: https://www.duvarenglish.com/human-rights/2020/08/11/dismissed-turkish-academic-known-for-hunger-strike-arrested-again [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xix] Yeni Bir Mecra (2020) ‘Critical Decisions in Eğitim-Sen: Nuriye Gülmen was Expelled’. Available online from: https://yeni1mecra.com/egitim-sende-kritik-kararlar-nuriye-gulmen-ihrac-edildi/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xx] Ibid.


Nuriye Gülmen : Une lutte de six ans contre les abus systématiques du gouvernement turc

Nuriye Gulmen

Il y a près de six ans, la Turquie a été secouée par la prétendue tentative de coup d’État du 15 juillet 2016. Un jour après la tentative, le gouvernement turc a rapidement établi l’état d’urgence et adopté les décrets exécutifs d’urgence nos 667-676 qui a censuré les médias et les journalistes, [i] mais a ensuite étendu sa portée à des milliers de fonctionnaires, de policiers, de membres des forces armées, de professeurs d’université et de personnel nommément dans les annexes du décret 679 du 6 janvier 2017. [ii]  Cela a abouti à un total de plus de 150 000 de personnes perdant leur emploi, l’accès aux services sociaux, leur liberté de mouvement est devenue restreinte, leur vie ternie par l’accusation du gouvernement selon laquelle elles étaient liées au coup d’État prétendument provoqué par Fetullah Gulen, un érudit turc qui vit en exil aux États-Unis depuis 1999 et qui a constamment nié l’accusation venant d’Ankara.[iii]

L’une de ces personnes touchées à la suite de ces événements est Nuriye Gülmen, une ancienne professeure turcque de littérature comparée à l’Université de Selçuk en 2012 et qui, avant la tentative de coup d’État, a été nommée assistante de recherche à l’Université Eskişehir Osmangazi en 2015. [iv] Gülmen est non seulement universitaire, mais a également une histoire d’activisme et de batailles juridiques contre l’abus des institutions en Turquie en raison d’un procès politique après sa nomination et l’a vue détenue pendant 109 jours, retardant ses études et sa réintégration à Eskişehir. [v]

Le jour où elle a été nommée à son poste de rechercheuse était le jour de la tentative de coup d’État, qui a conduit à sa suspension d’Eskişehir le lendemain. Cela était dû aux nouveaux décrets qui l’ont accusée, comme des milliers avec elle, d’être membre de FETO, la soi-disante organisation de partisans des exilés Gulen qu’Erdogan et le gouvernement l’accusait d’être une organisation terroriste. Cela a déclenché la phase suivante de son histoire de militante et depuis le 9 novembre 2016, où elle avait protesté contre sa suspension, son licenciement éventuel et réclamé avec insistance son travail à Eskişehir tous les jours auprès du monument des droits de l’homme situé dans la rue Yüksel, Ankara, où siège le Conseil de l’enseignement supérieur et qui doit répondre à ses exigences. [vi] Gülmen explique qu’il s’agit d’une “tradition révolutionnaire” déterminée à attirer l’attention et à obtenir ce que vous voulez, exigeant dans ce cas la fin de l’état d’urgence, permettant aux travailleurs publics démocratiques révolutionnaires qui ont été licenciés de reprendre leur travail, et demande de sécurité d’emploi pour tous les travailleurs de l’éducation et des sciences.[vii] Gülmen a commencé sa manifestation en grande partie par elle-même, étant arrêtée 26 fois au total, ce qui peut être attribué à l’attention croissante des spectateurs étrangers et nationaux observant ses actions, lisant son expérience sur son blog WordPress en ligne, et finalement nommée par CNN comme l’une des huit femmes exceptionnelles de 2016 par son 50e jour de protestation. [viii]

Cette situation s’est considérablement détériorée après le décret du 6 janvier 2017, lorsque Gülmen a été renvoyée d’Eskişehir, ce qui l’a amenée à passer à la vitesse supérieure en engageant une grève de la faim le 9 mars 2017. Gülmen, alors qu’elle était en garde à vue aux côtés de l’institutrice principale Semih Özakça, ont été victimes de tortures. [ix] La justification de la grève était que les protestations verbales ont tendance à être la norme dans la boîte à outils des militants, qui le plus souvent n’attirent pas suffisamment l’attention des autorités, mais une grève de la faim est une action forte qui positionne les acteurs qui s’y engagent.[x] En réaction à la grève de la faim, un acte d’accusation a été déposé le 2 mai 2017 auprès de la 19e Cour pénale d’Ankara accusant à la fois Gülmen et Özakça d’être membres et impliqués dans les activités illicites du Parti révolutionnaire de libération du peuple-Front. (DHKP-C), conduisant à leur tour à leur détention à la prison de Sincan à Ankara le 23 mai 2017. [xi]  Le tribunal a déclaré les deux femmes coupable parce que “s’ils n’étaient pas placés en détention provisoire, ils nuiraient au cours de la justice”, une ligne qui semble contradictoires compte tenu du manque de preuves dans les accusations portées et alors que les deux enseignantes restent vigilantes en niant toute implication avec DHKP-C au point que leur avocat a même rendu public leur casier judiciaire comme preuve qu’une telle implication n’existe pas et a contré les efforts du ministre de la Intérieur Suleyman Soylu et le centre de recherche et d’études de son ministère pour tenter de solidifier les accusations. [xii]

On craignait que les deux enseignantes soient confrontés à de nouvelles violations des droits humains, puisque les gardiens de prison et les médecins sont légalement autorisés à intervenir et à mettre fin à une grève de la faim sans le consentement des enseignants. Ils peuvent également intervenir lorsqu’ils sont inconscients, comme le stipule l’article 82 de la loi sur l’exécution de l’arrêt n° 5275, ce qui violerait la liberté d’expression et est susceptible d’entraîner à des peines ou traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants.[xiii] Lors d’une visite du président de l’association du barreau d’Ankara, Hakan Canduran, et de certains de ses collègues, Gülmen a exprimé la situation désastreuse dans laquelle elle et Özakça se sont retrouvées. À son tour, nous avons vu Canduran appeler le gouvernement à mettre fin à la grève de la faim par la réconciliation sociale et à négocier avec ceux qui sont injustement touchés par les décrets d’urgence. [xiv]  Tout au long de la mi-2017, les deux enseignantes ont déposé une demande auprès de la Cour constitutionnelle et de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme pour mettre fin à leur détention au motif que leur grève de la faim avait alors posé des risques évidents pour leur santé, mais les deux tribunaux ont rejeté leur demande parce que ces risques ne mettaient pas leur vie en danger et les mesures médicales appropriées étaient en place pour les aider si cela devenait le cas. [xv]

L’état de santé de Gülmen est finalement devenu grave et, le 26 septembre 2017, avait justifié son transfert dans une cellule de l’hôpital de Numune. Elle a ensuite été libérée de sa détention le 1er décembre, date à laquelle le tribunal l’a condamnée à 6 ans et 3 mois de prison, autorisant toutefois sa libération sous contrôle judiciaire.[xvi] Malgré leur libération, Gülmen et Özakça ont poursuivi leur manifestation devant le Monument des droits de l’homme, mais ont finalement dû mettre fin à leur grève de la faim le 26 janvier 2018, suite au rejet d’une commission gouvernementale chargée d’examiner leurs cas, et à la place ont cherché à concentrer leurs efforts au sein du système judiciaire national pour aller de l’avant, soulignant que leur résistance n’avait pas pris fin et qu’elles poursuivraient leur effort. [xvii]  Après 324 jours de grève de la faim, Gülmen avait perdu une quantité importante de son poids initial, passant de 59 kilogrammes à 33,8 kilogrammes, ce qui montre à quel point ses efforts étaient sérieux pour conserver son emploi et le respect de ses droits.[xviii]

La prochaine fois que Gülmen a été sous les feux de la rampe, c’est lorsqu’elle a de nouveau été arrêtée le 11 août 2020, lors d’une patrouille de police au centre culturel Idil d’Istanbul, un centre dirigé par le groupe folk de gauche Grup Yurum, dont les raisons restent inexpliquées. [xix]  Plus tard cette année-là, Gülmen et d’autres collègues ont été expulsés du Syndicat des travailleurs de l’éducation et des sciences (Eğitim-Sen) en raison de leur image de «résistants Yüksel» ou de combattants de la résistance aux yeux du gouvernement. [xx]  Le dernier développement était le 4 novembre 2021, lorsque le couple avait déposé une plainte auprès de la Cour constitutionnelle qui a ensuite rejeté leurs allégations selon lesquelles l’acte d’accusation du 2 mai 2017 utilisait les mêmes preuves qu’une enquête antérieure du 14 mars 2017, qui a conduit à leur arrestation mais ont ensuite été démis de leurs fonctions et libérés sous contrôle judiciaire, indiquant que l’acte d’accusation du 2 mai et la détention du 23 mai 2017 ont violé leurs droits à la liberté et à la sécurité, précisant en outre que les autorités judiciaires statuant sur l’affaire n’étaient ni impartiales ni indépendantes . [xxi]  La Cour a rejeté leur affaire parce que les demandes de Gülmen et Özakça manquaient de preuves concrètes, que leurs droits violés étaient inacceptables à faire valoir et qu’ils n’avaient pas épuisé tous les moyens internes avant de déposer leurs demandes.[xxii]

Ce qui ressort cruellement de l’activisme audacieux de Nuriye Gülmen, c’est que depuis 2016, le gouvernement turc a injustement ciblé des centaines de milliers d’individus sur la base d’arguments qui ne tiennent pas la route, et ceux qui ont été les plus touchés et décident de s’opposer à l’action du gouvernement. Et ces actions font systématiquement l’objet d’une répression importante par la détention et l’intimidation légale. Broken Chalk appelle le gouvernement turc et les autorités compétentes à reconsidérer sérieusement ses actions qui ont laissé des milliers de personnes sans sécurité d’emploi ou la possibilité de quitter le pays et de trouver un emploi à l’étranger. Broken Chalk demande en particulier la réintégration de Nuriye Gülmen et Semih Özakça, parmi tant d’autres, à leurs postes respectifs dans le domaine de l’éducation, dont leur retrait a certainement réduit l’accès et la qualité de l’éducation en Turquie.


Par Karl Baldacchino  Translated from Englsih Version : https://brokenchalk.org/nuriye-gulmen-a-six-year-struggle-against-systematic-abuses/

Edited by Erika Grimes



[i] Grabenwarter, C. et al. (2017) ‘Draft Opinion on the Measures Provided in the Recent Emergency Decree Laws with Respect to Freedom of the Media’. European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission). Available online from: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL(2017)006-e [Accessed on 08/03/2022], pp. 3-4.

[ii] Decree-Law No. 679 (6th January 2017) ‘Measures Regarding Public Personnel’. Available online from: https://insanhaklarimerkezi.bilgi.edu.tr/media/uploads/2017/02/09/KHK_679_ENG.pdf [Accessed 08/03/2022], p. 1.

[iii] Jones, T. (2018) ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.  DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/two-turkish-teachers-end-almost-11-month-hunger-strike/a-42318478 [Accessed 08/03/2022]; Işık, A. (2017) ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like my Muscles’’. DW. Available online from: https://www.dw.com/en/in-turkey-hope-for-justice-is-fading-away-just-like-my-muscles/a-39482207 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[iv] Halavut, H. (2017) ‘Interview with Nuriye Gülmen: ‘I Have More Hope Today Than I Did on the First Day’’.  5 Harliler. Available online from: https://www.5harfliler.com/interview-with-nuriye-gulmen/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.; see also Gülmen, N. (2016) ‘DİRENİŞİN TALEPLERi’. Available online from: https://nuriyegulmendireniyor.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/basin-aciklamasina-cagri/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Wikipedia (2022) ‘Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuriye_G%C3%BClmen#cite_note-18 [Accessed 08/03/2022].

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.; see also Amnesty International (2017) ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Hunger Strikers’ Wellbeing’. Available online from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/EUR4463402017ENGLISH.pdf [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[x] Ibid.

[xi] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’.

[xii] Cumhuriyet (2017) ‘Criminal Record of Gülmen and Özakça, Declared ‘Terrorists’ by Minister Soylu’. Available online from: https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/bakan-soylunun-terorist-ilan-ettigi-gulmen-ve-ozakcanin-adli-sicil-kaydi-748105 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also NTV (2017) ‘Statements by Minister Soylu about Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’. Available online from: https://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/bakan-soyludan-aclik-grevi-yapan-nuriye-gulmenle-ilgili-aciklamalar,Jg2i0I634EyPWqK_cXdIbg [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Milliyet (2017) ‘The Unending Scenario of a Terrorist Organisation: “The Truth of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça”’. Available online from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170813220846/http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bir-teror-orgutunun-bitmeyen-senaryosu-ankara-yerelhaber-2179760/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xiii] ‘Urgent Action: Fear for Strikers’ Wellbeing’; see also ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xiv] ‘In Turkey, Hope for ‘Justice is Fading Away Just like My Muscles’.

[xv] Armutcu, O. (2017) ‘The Constitutional Court Rejected the Appeal Against the Detention of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça’ Hurriyet. Available online from: https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/anayasa-mahkemesi-nuriye-gulmen-ve-semih-ozakcanin-tutukluluguna-yapilan-itirazi-reddetti-40503721 [Accessed on 08/03/2022]; see also Cakir, A. (2017) ‘ECHR Rejects Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen’s Application’. Voice of America. Available online from: https://www.amerikaninsesi.com/a/aihm-semih-ozakca-ve-nuriye-gulmen-in-basvurusunu-reddetti/3969669.html [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xvi] Bianet (2017) ‘Nuriye Gülmen Released’. Available online from: https://bianet.org/english/human-rights/192100-nuriye-gulmen-released [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xvii] ‘Two Turkish Teachers End Almost 11-Month Hunger Strike’.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Duvar English (2020) ‘Dismissed Turkish Academic, Known for Hunger Strike, Arrested Again’. Available online from: https://www.duvarenglish.com/human-rights/2020/08/11/dismissed-turkish-academic-known-for-hunger-strike-arrested-again [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xx] Yeni Bir Mecra (2020) ‘Critical Decisions in Eğitim-Sen: Nuriye Gülmen was Expelled’. Available online from: https://yeni1mecra.com/egitim-sende-kritik-kararlar-nuriye-gulmen-ihrac-edildi/ [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xxi] Duvar English (2021) ‘Turkey’s Top Court Rules Dismissed Educators’ Rights Not Violated’. Available online from: https://www.duvarenglish.com/turkeys-top-court-rules-rights-of-dismissed-educators-nuriye-gulmen-and-semih-ozakca-not-violated-news-59436 [Accessed on 08/03/2022].

[xxii] Ibid.

A Guide to Writing Proposals for European Union Projects: A Presentation by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform


On the 14th of April 2022, several organizations joined online for a Zoom webinar that focused on guiding them on how to choose, write, and coordinate project proposals in line with the calls for funding requested by bodies of the European Union. The meeting was hosted by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform (IDP), introduced by its Executive Director Mehmet A. Bayrak as a non-profit civil society organization based in Brussels, focused on achieving a mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence amongst individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. So far, it has conducted three large scale and successful Horizon projects.[1] Following this, Mehmet introduced the main speaker of the webinar, Ludmila Malai, the IDP EU Project Manager. She is educated in politics and international law, and for the last few years has coordinated projects around extremism, identity building, and cultural dialogue.


A Call for Proposals

Ludmila started by explaining that, to find new calls for proposals, one must view the European Commission’s website under the ‘Find call for funding – by topic’ section, using the platform to search for projects that are of interest to an organization, choosing from calls that are either still open or forthcoming in the criteria options. This will still result in too many visible calls, so she suggested adding further criteria by programme type such as: Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values (CERV), Horizon 2020, EU External Action, Digital Europe Programme, Connecting Europe Facility, Gender Equality, calls coming from the European Parliament, Asylum Migration & Integration Fund; Erasmus+ Programmes, Creative Europe, and so on. As a sidenote, she explains that, although Horizon 2020 programmes are at the forefront of EU projects, it is highly research-based and requires a firm background in the chosen topic or a consortium of partners that can achieve innovative outcomes, a factor that is further expanded on below.

Since the current trend for European programmes has shifted to increasingly involve not only public authorities but also civil actors, she decides to use CERV as the primary example for civil society organizations seeking to submit proposals in line with their values or mission statement, such as the current ‘Call for Proposals to Protect & Promote the Rights of the Child’.[2] From this call, it is crucial that any organizations firstly check the deadline model, which can either be a single-stage submission that requires submitting just the ‘Project proposal – Technical description (Part B)’ or a multiple-stage process which requires an organization to submit various documents at different stages. In the case of this call, the deadline model is of a single-stage, and has a deadline of approximately a month until the submission process closes on the 18th of May 2022. Ludmila recommended that, to draw up a proposal document, one should leave approximately between 6-8 weeks, as a month is too tight and complicated to submit a well-drawn up proposal. The next section examines the budget overview which displays an indicative (total) budget available of €3,010,000 to fund all the projects that end up accepted, giving any organization a good indication about what can be reasonably proposed and allows for better preparation.


The Call Document

After viewing these details, Ludmila emphasises that, prior to writing a proposal, an organization should rigorously study what is known as the ‘Call Document’. The document provides clear guidelines to match projects with what the European Commission will ultimately grant funding towards. Continuing with the call document of children’s rights,[3] one should start by looking at the ‘Eligibility’ criteria, namely: that your organization is a legal entity of a public or private nature; it is established in particular regions or countries of the EU or non-EU countries associated with the CERV programme or countries which are in ongoing negotiations for an association agreement and where the agreement enters into force before the grant signature; that, if the organization is profit-oriented, then it must submit applications in partnership with public entities or private NPOs; that the proposed project can be either be conducted in a national or transnational context (in the case of the latter, it requires that at least two different European countries are participating in the project – one of whom may be the organization coordinating the project as was required in this case); that the EU grant applied for cannot be lower than €75,000 (the minimum budget being asked for any proposal being submitted); and that the beneficiaries and affiliated entities must register in the ‘Participant Register’ before submitting the proposal and will have to be validated by the Central Validation Service.

When asked about the right budget (in this case beyond the €75,000 minimum budget and the maximum indicative budget of €3,000,000), Ludmila replied that it is all about how cost-effective the project activities are and suggested that organizations should not ask too much nor too little, but that it remains context-dependent (on the goals of the project). For example, creating a guide, toolkit, or handbook would require a certain amount of calculation for the different features included, but is independent from the other proposed actions, like implementing 20 training sessions for youth workers may require you to ask for €100,000. It may even be the case that you propose an action that requires €2,000,000 to implement a policy of school meals to tackle food security, in line with the proposal.

By satisfying these requirements, the organization can then move on to reading the content of the call, consisting of its background, objectives, the themes and priorities, the appropriate activities, and the expected impacts of any activities or deliverables that form a core part of your proposed project. Ludmila explained what these sections involve in turn.



This section refers to the context that the call is founded upon, in terms of why such a call was proposed, its origin, and what main issues are tackled. Ludmila emphasises that it is crucial for a proposal to be centred around the needs and assessment of the call background, which proves that the project really understands the field of the call itself and ensures it is in line with any particular documents that are drafted by the European Commission, such as, in this case, the ‘EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child’.



The scope of the objectives for any proposal should be to support, advance and implement a set of comprehensive policies that aim to protect and promote the rights of the child and policies, as well as making sure once again that these objectives fit the initiatives supported in the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.


Theme & Priorities

Ludmila explains the importance for organizations to carefully choose what you want to tackle in terms of the proposal’s priorities. The sentence structure could look like: ‘This call for proposals will contribute to’, for instance, ‘protecting children against exploitative behaviour’, or ‘expanding the access of children to social services, health, a safe environment of work and play, a quality education’ and so on. This shows that a proposal has conducted a clear reading of the major themes and priorities being addressed within the call document and is structured to match the document throughout the proposal.



Ludmila noted that it is easy to come together as an organization or consortium to brainstorm a number of activities to conduct during a project’s lifecycle; however, you may come up with a good activity which does not match the activities that will be funded within the call document, so it is highly advisable to adapt to what the call is asking for, which, in this case, comprises mutual learning, teaching activities, capacity building, cooperation, identifying good practices, and awareness raising activities. The main drawback to suggesting activities that do not accomplish what the call document is describing is a loss of points in the proposal evaluation process, which will be discussed further below.


Expected Impact

After outlining the activities, they must be accompanied by the positive, tangible, and visible impacts that your project expects to see, bridging the connections to other actions within the project and the call document. Once again, you can propose good actions which do not generate the expected impacts in line with the call document, resulting in a risk of failure of the proposal. A major factor connected to this section is the time required for these impacts to emerge. If the impacts surpass the project’s lifecycle, which usually lasts between two to three years, then it is best to review the proposal and ensure that the actions result in impacts of a timely manner.


Evaluation of Proposals

Following the submission of a proposal, it will be evaluated to meet the threshold of points against three main elements, which may vary depending on the given call but which, in this case, are listed as 70 points to be awarded approval.[4] The three elements are as follows:

  • Relevance (40 points) which requires that a proposal can accomplish exactly what is expected from what is included in the call document and centred around the EU’s strategic and legislative contexts; the eligibility criteria; the use of results from other projects, studies, or national programmes; the level of replicability of your project in other contexts and domestic settings; the appropriate inclusion of gender perspectives; and whether the proposal has a transnational dimension. Therefore, it is essential to adhere to this element, especially because it can destabilise a proposal given the fact that out of all three elements, relevance requires any proposal to attain 25 points out of the total 40 for the funding to be granted.


  • Quality (40 points) means that a proposal should be well written in terms of the logical links to identified problems, needs, and solutions mentioned in the call document. This requires the development of what is called a logical frame concept. It includes the chosen methodology for implementing the project; incorporating a gender perspective; maintaining a firm coherence throughout the proposal; acknowledging ethical issues; showing a high rate of visibility in terms of the time proposed for impacts; and considering a coherently reasonable proposed budget results in the best value for money.


  • Impact (20 points). Here, Ludmila explains that European projects are usually funded for a maximum of two or three years, so they usually have a short lifecycle that may lead to a limited amount of publicity for chosen projects. This why any project should establish platforms or pathways that extend the lifecycle of the project beyond their completion, buttressing the project with strong elements of sustainable end goals that can be easily replicated in other contexts, as well as incorporating open access mechanisms for methods and data that are freely accessible to others.

These elements are critical to any project being awarded funding. Ludmila concludes that given the increased inflation of proposals being submitted for calls, a proposed project must visibly show a high quality that stands out amongst other proposed projects. Therefore, it pays off to spend as much time and effort on drawing up a proposal that captures the attention of the evaluators because it fits all the criteria, aims to provide deliverables, activities, and impacts in line with the call document, and goes the extra mile by incorporating mechanisms that sustains the effective outcomes of the projects for other future projects that can springboard off its results.


Structuring Your Proposal

When necessary, another crucial factor is for the coordinating organization to search for other partner organizations, establishing what is called a consortium that displays a clear capacity of implementing the proposed project, asking which organizations can add a high quality of value to your project. These may be civil society organizations that address specific issues, public bodies, institutions, schools, centres and so on. In this sense, partners that have experience in the topic of choice, will directly impact the credibility of the project by helping to achieve its goals, needs, and effects. Likewise, during the search, the organization should target partners located in other countries that vocalise the issues addressed in the call document. For example, if the call addresses antisemitism, then the countries that the organizations ought to look at would be France, Germany, or Poland. The key is to aim for diversity, because the more variety there is in the consortium network, the more likely it would be to instil a variety of experiences and activities that can generate amazing work packages that will show positive results.

The next step should be forming a solid definition of the problem the project will tackle, engaging in research analysis of what current gaps exist in recent research, finding a methodology which matches the call, conducting brainstorming sessions for activities, developing a visual idea of the project plan, creating a timetable, consulting with the whole team, and engaging in feedback channels that ensure no elements are left out from the overall plan.

The submission document itself requires a name, a technical outline that clearly describes the proposed project, a project summary, the elements of relevance, quality, communicating the expected impacts, the chosen methodology, background, and so on. It will also require a management plan that explains how the coordinator will establish quality control, such as by adopting high standards and monitoring mechanisms that measure the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of impacts that will display the success of the project. Other measures include the avoidance of producing unknown facts from project activities through risk management procedures that link actions with security measures that show how these elements are addressed in a smooth manner, as well as possibly drawing up a work plan for the work packages set with a timetable that outlines a realistic timeline to implement actions.


Important Tips

Nearing the end of Ludmilla’s presentation, a dedicated time for questions and answers led to her providing a few extra tips to further guide the writing and submission process of the proposal:

  • Always keep in mind the project objectives – It is easy to run ahead when generating ideas and having a lot of enthusiasm, but it may end up with taking a wrong turn in the process or providing a project that is not coherent with your objectives.


  • Avoid complicated sentences – It is better to stick to clear ideas and keeping the proposal simple, through devoting time in evaluating the project to ensure that is it of good quality. Formulating it in an uneasy way may lead to a loss of points because evaluators might get tired of reading your proposal and ideas. Clarity can be accomplished through using bullet points for objects, activities, or any particular points that may need to be emphasised. Even difficult issues can be explained easily, even when avoiding simple vocabulary. It is encouraged to use necessary academic terms, especially in the case of Horizon 2020 projects, but ensuring that they are included in the proposal text in a way that does not tire the reader.


  • Initially, every process seems complicated – Along the various sections, the project will gradually become easier because, by integrating information, a routine will become established. This will naturally guide the choices and answers of what will be the most important information that you need to include, and, with time, you learn what you need to pay attention to and what you should prioritise. The process is meant to be an interesting experience of acquiring new information on topics that are currently relevant in society.


  • Proofreading – It is advisable that, if an organization would like to present a draft copy of the proposal to any external parties for proofreading, it should be ready two weeks before submitting the proposal to ensure that there is ample space and time for feedback and to make any necessary corrections. Likewise, if the organization is simply planning to share the draft with an external party that is already familiar with the proposed project, then a week suffices, but it is always optimal to have it ready in advance. It is also a good idea to finish the first draft in advance and take some time to relax after writing before returning to it after a few days. This will clear the head and potentially help you find new elements to include or remove.


  • Evaluation – Lastly, Ludmila mentioned that after submitting a project proposal, it takes between 4 to 6 months before the application results in an award. It is thus a lengthy process.


Written by Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato



[1] More information can be found on their website at Dialogue Platform, ‘About – Dialogue Platform’. Available online from : https://dialogueplatform.eu/about-dialogue-platform/ [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[2] European Commission (2021a), ‘Funding and Tenders Portal – Call for proposals to protect and promote the rights of the child’. Available online from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/opportunities/topic-details/cerv-2022-child [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[3] European Commission (2021b) ‘Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) – Call for proposals to protect and promote the rights of the child – CERV-2022-CHILD’. Available online from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/cerv/wp-call/2022/call-fiche_cerv-2022-child_en.pdf [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[4] European Commission (2021b), p. 17.

Educational Challenges in the Republic of Malta


The Republic of Malta is a small island located in the Mediterranean Sea, just below Sicily, East of Tunisia, and above Libya. Historically, it served as a gateway between North Africa and Europe, as explained by its long history as a part of imperial conquests by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Knights of St. John, the French, and lastly the British, gaining its independence by 1964 and becoming a Republic in 1974.[i] It became a member of the European Union (EU) in 2004, leading to a flurry of reforms for social development in terms of education, health, and socioeconomic status in order to meet EU benchmarks.[ii] In this regard, attaining a quality education has increased across the board for students and what they are equipped with following compulsory education as a result.

Characteristics of Malta’s Education System

The ‘Education Act’, pursuant to Chapter 327 of the Laws of Malta, states that education is compulsory for all children and youth in Malta between the ages of five and sixteen, split into six years of primary education proceeded by five years of secondary education. Parents have the liberty to send their children either to public, state-run schools, or Church-run schools that are full-time and mostly free or to private schools that require annual tuition fees.[iii] There also exists a strong promotion and supply of early childhood education and care (ECEC) from birth until the age of three, followed by kindergarten centres that help prepare children to enter primary education with ease, seeing a total of 143 registered childcare centres by November 2019.[iv]

Primary education consists of mixed-ability classes combining the three core subjects of English, Maths, Maltese, and science, religion/ethics, and physical education. It includes cross-curricular soft skills like e-learning, sustainable development, intercultural education, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation.[v] This level exists within the state ‘College Networks’ that ease the flow of children attending the same primary and secondary schools within specific geographic proximity, using particular checklists to assess literacy, numeracy, and e-literacy between the first and third grades, coupled with continuous formative assessments via the ‘End of Primary Benchmark’ for the three core subjects.[vi]

Secondary education is split into lower and upper-secondary. The former lasts two years and is referred to as ‘Middle School’, including the three core subjects as well as geography, history, religion/ethics, physics, PSCD (personal, social, and career development), art, foreign languages (e.g., Italian, German, French, Arabic, Spanish), and so on. The following upper-secondary education generally consists of students attending elective classes chosen in the second year of Middle School alongside both one foreign language and science of their choice.[vii] This level relies on continuous forms of assessments and annual centrally-set exams at the end of each year, culminating into the national Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations organised by the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) board of the University of Malta (UOM), whereby all students at the age of sixteen take exams focused on the three core subjects and chosen electives to attain qualifications recognised across Malta and by the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF).[viii]

(Source: ‘Malta: Organisation of the education system and of its structure’, European Commission)

Post-secondary education ensures that students who were unable to pass the SEC examinations have a second chance through revision programmes at the Guze Ellul Mercer (GEM) 16+ School or at the Higher Secondary Schools in Malta and Gozo. It also entails that students who passed the three core subjects and another three subjects can opt to attain higher levels of education in two-year programmes either at Junior College or Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary in preparation for tertiary education at the UOM via the Advanced and Intermediate Levels exams; or may also take a more practical approach by attending the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), which offers a range of vocational programmes, diplomas and degrees in science, engineering, accounting and ICT; or the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS), focused on the tourism industry as a primary backbone of Malta’s economy.[ix]

UOM provides a diverse range of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programmes traditionally focused on law, medicine, communications, psychology, and humanities. It has recently expanded into new digital fields like blockchain technology and cybersecurity.[x] However, other public and private institutions compete with UOM by targeting niche market demands for adult education, as seen by programmes offered by the Centre for Liberal Arts and Sciences at UOM, as well as the University of the Third Age (U3E), to provide challenging programmes to strengthen critical thinking and skills attainment.[xi]

This system boasts a strong structure focused on education for all to enter the labour market with ease, ensuring free access throughout and significant governmental assistance such as free textbooks and transport, as well as maintenance grants and monthly stipends for those continuing onto higher levels of education.[xii] It is evident that Malta has made major strides to invest heavily in its education system, having among the highest general government expenditures on education at 14.2%, and dedicating 5.3% portion of its gross domestic product (GDP) to education, which is above the EU averages of 10% and 4.7%, respectively.[xiii] However, despite this positive progress, the system remains heavily burdened in meeting benchmarks, its educators coping with the rapid pace of reforms, and the significant increase of the migrant population.

Failing to Meet Educational Benchmarks

2009 and 2018 data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and calculated results from Eurostat highlight how the percentage of 15-year-olds underperforming in literacy, numeracy, and science remained well above EU averages, standing at 35.6%, 29.1% and 32.5%, respectively. The level of reading and writing in English of Grade 5 children in primary schools show that 65.8% of them could speak English, sometimes beyond C1 level, but 32.8% of children displayed a weakness in writing at A1 level.[xiv] Furthermore, 2011 data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) ranked Malta 35th out of 45 participating countries in the study. Students’ literacy levels are comparable to Trinidad and Tobago, with 25% scoring low in English reading. The mean score for Maltese reading was worse than the mean score for English reading, which highlights a discrepancy between state and both church and private institutions.[xv] The latter problem is due to a lack of resources, wherein Bonnici (2021), explained in his article that, ‘Malta has created an environment where some students have access to better resources simply because they can afford it’. This demonstrates that education is unequal in state schools, a view that has been confirmed by the European Commission’s 2020 study. The study suggests that the gap between state and private or church schools is as much as two years of teaching.[xvi] Despite targeted reforms, classrooms remain quite large, with policies capping the size at 26 pupils per class but failing to address teacher-student ratio, which ranks amongst the lowest in the EU. It stood at 12.8, 6.5, and 7.5 for primary, lower- and-upper-secondary levels in 2019, giving an indirect indication of individual focus for students.[xvii]

Another historical issue for Malta has been the high rate of early school leavers (ESLs), which Eurostat defined as ‘those between 18 and 24 years of age, who do not have at least the equivalent SEC passes (grades 1 to 7) in five different subjects and who are not in education or training’. Standing at 33% in 2005, it decreased to 16.7% by 2020, leaving Malta with the second-largest rate and higher than the EU benchmark of 10%.[xviii] The employment rate of those having attained low education levels of education is 71.7%: the highest in the EU, which explains why school dropouts are a persistent issue. It shows that, even with few qualifications, people still found employment in the tourism industry, which, besides being poorly paid, also hinders the success of policies aiming to lower the cost-benefit of enrolling on higher levels of education, as suggested by some researchers, placing this cohort at risk of social exclusion and unemployment in the future as new industries are carved out.[xix] This may also be a generational problem. One-third of the total workforce has a secondary level of education, whilst 50% remain without SEC qualifications. In the year 2000, 7.4% of 30 to 34-year-olds attained tertiary qualifications, increasing to 39.7% by 2020. The latter amounted to a successfully reached benchmark, which included a gender gap of 46.5% of women having attained tertiary education in comparison to 34.1% for men.[xx]

The students’ high failing in MATSEC core subjects across secondary and post-secondary levels indicates the system’s failure to meet benchmarks. In 2021, 17% (642 out of 3706), 18% (762 out of 4162), and 14% (575 out of 4086) of students failed Maltese, Maths, and English, in comparison to the 2019 results of 19%, 17%, and 12% respectively. The former Minister of Education, Justyne Caruana, stated that this failure cannot be attributed to the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.[xxi] In reaction to this, the Government announced a UOM decision that entering Junior College will no longer require students to pass all the core subjects, a foreign language, and a science; but that only passing one core subject would be the new requirement. This decision received backlash from stakeholders, especially the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT), who had not been consulted. They questioned the decision as an election tactic, considering that the 2022 parliamentary elections saw 16-year-olds allowed to vote for the first time.[xxii] The Government supports the decision because it may positively address the issue of ESLs, insofar as higher levels of education posed a barrier for the youth. Requirements to enter UOM still remain a barrier in this respect, but many wonder if this is the direction that education should take.

Educators Unable to Cope

There are not enough teachers to cater for all students, especially for the three core subjects;[xxiii] however, rather than seeing education as a so-called ‘elitist bastion’ and pinning educational development solely on the shoulders of educators, a better approach would be to tackle the attitudinal and systematic imbalances of how educators in Malta are treated. It is attitudinal in the sense that the profession is considered amongst the lowest and least respected in Maltese society, which affects the crucial instruction that students receive from educators, an issue that is amplified by the fact that parents and social communities have, for a long time and until recently, not desired to be involved in the education of their children and the future of the labour market, risking the widening of socio-economic inequalities.[xxiv] On the other hand, for the last three years the MUT, alongside others, have lambasted governmental reforms being introduced without their consultation, without providing training and professional development for the new reforms, nor have these reforms shown success thus far to gain educators’ support, instead arguing that the rapid pace is akin to a ‘rat race’ resulting in ‘reform fatigue’.[xxv] This is why educators are feeling burnt out with the amount of paperwork they must prioritise over other core responsibilities, in turn being unable to tackle the lack of student discipline and appropriate behaviour in their classrooms. They are instead calling for reforms to not be solely student-centred as a way to bypass the need for a balanced approach that also takes educators’ needs into account, a crucial reason why many educators are leaving the field.[xxvi]

The study conducted by Dr. Chircop in 2020 focused on how educators construct an image of Maltese society within the classroom, and revealed how the rapid pace of socio-economic reforms since Malta’s accession into the EU by introducing divorce, civil union, same-sex marriage, changes in migration policies, and even the recent legalization of hemp production has left educators with a double duty of having to reconcile these changes with their own religious, cultural, and moral systems, indirectly increasing the barriers to creating a more tolerant society inside and outside of schools.[xxvii] This risks systematizing issues of racism and the exclusion of certain sexualities that lingered in society but have become more pronounced and visible over the last two decades, becoming entrenched boundaries of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ due to the fears that the Maltese identity will be detached from its cultural, religious, and social roots in exchange for more modern, European, or even North African and Mediterranean linked to Malta’s history and relations with various cultures.[xxviii] It points towards a wider cross-cutting issue that has existed in Malta since 2002, that of an increased foreign population within the country.

From Economic Necessity to Racism

The topic of racism in Malta has a contradictory nature since, in the past, the labour market required a supply of highly skilled individuals who were not present amongst the Maltese population and became dependent on the attraction of foreign workers to fill the skills gap, a dependency that continues today with the latest market development of the gaming industry (roughly 60% of which consist of foreign employees).[xxix] Racist attitudes became more prevalent due to the fact that the foreign population grew from 14,725 in 2008 to 83,267 by 2019, or from 4% of the total Maltese population to 17%. It added pressure on the 1,322 inhabitants per square kilometre – significantly higher than the U.K., with 244.3 inhabitants/km2, or Italy, with 19.2 244.3 inhabitants/km2. This was reflected in schools, as more third-country nationals students (TNCs) from Syria, Libya, and Serbia enrolled on schools in the North, the Northern Harbour, and the South-Eastern districts of Malta, such as in St. Theresa College, St. Benedict College, and St. Clare College.[xxx] Despite its limitations, a study by Frendo in 2021 displayed firm signs of exclusion and discrimination against migrant students in post-secondary education with regards to being treated differently by peers in the classroom due to their skin colour or clothing, being asked racist questions by educators, and being made invisible by the use of Maltese as the language of instruction, concluding that these same cultural and ethnic markers may also be present in other levels of education.[xxxi]

Racism is a critical issue that must be addressed by providing more professional development and training to educators in terms of pedagogical methods and teaching of language, as well as by accommodating the educational and emotional needs of those who may possess trauma due to their migratory journey or experiences of abuse, creating an intercultural rather than a multicultural environment of assimilation. In addition, the wider educational system in Malta must increase the allocation of resources and focus on schools and districts that are serving concentrated pools of foreign students. This would challenge the wider perception of foreigners posing ‘threats’ to their culture, language, and employment prospects.[xxxii]


Having been born, raised, and passing through the education system of Malta, I have come across these issues first-hand and befriended many current and future educators in the field who publicly debate and discuss these current issues. The system itself has found its footing over the years, and there is clear evidence that past, current, and future generations have positive access to quality education. However, the system must fill the remaining gaps since all the stakeholders involved are falling through the cracks. There is a serious need for all stakeholders to come together to reassess the teaching methods, content, training, and student pool to ensure that they all benefit from the system as originally intended.

Written by Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato


[i] Fenech, C. & Seguna, A. (2020) ‘Internationalisation of Maltese Society and Education’. Malta Journal of Education, Vol. 1(1), pp. 31-32.

[ii] Ibid., p. 30; see also Chircop, L. (2020) ‘Educators’ Constructions of Maltese Society’. Malta Journal of Education, Vol. 1(1), pp. 59-60; Gauci, T. M. (2021) ‘An Analysis of Educational Attainment in Malta: Policy Note’. Central Bank of Malta, pp. 4 & 12-13; see also European Commission (2019) ‘Education and Training Monitor 2019: Malta’, pp. 5-6.

[iii] European Commission, ‘Malta: Organisation of the education system and of its structure’. Eurydice. Available online from: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/organisation-education-system-and-its-structure-49_en#:~:text=Education%20in%20Malta%20is%20compulsory,five%20years%20of%20secondary%20education. [Accessed 29/04/2022].

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.; see also Mayo, P. (2012) ‘Adult Education in Malta: Challenges and Prospects’.  Journal of Adult Continuing Education, Vol. 18(1), p. 52.

[xii] Ibid.; see also Gauci, p. 5; see also Mayo, p. 58.

[xiii] Gauci, p. 22; see also European Commission (2019), p. 7; see also Bonnici, J. (2021) ‘Malta’s Educational System is Failing While We Play Dumb’. Lovin Malta. Available online from: https://lovinmalta.com/opinion/analysis/maltas-educational-system-is-failing-while-we-play-dumb/ [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xiv] European Commission (2019), p. 5; see also European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, ‘Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education – Country Report: Malta’, p. 2.

[xv] European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, pp. 5-6.

[xvi] Bonnici; see also European Commission (2020) ‘Equity in School Education in Europe: Structures, Policies and Student Performance’, pp. 65 & 239-240.

[xvii] Gauci, pp. 22-23.

[xviii] Ibid., p. 4; see also European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, p. 6; see also Carabott, S. (2019) ‘Malta with Second Largest Number of Early School Leavers in Europe’. Times of Malta. Available online from: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/malta-with-second-largest-number-of-early-school-leavers-in-europe.708292#:~:text=Malta%20has%20the%20second%20largest,2018%2C%20according%20to%20European%20data. [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xix] Ibid., pp. 10-11 European Commission (2019), pp. 8-9; see also Bonnici.

[xx] Ibid., pp. 8-11; see also European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, p. 4; see also Carabott.

[xxi] Fenech, J. (2021) ‘MATSEC Results to be Evaluated to Find Reasons for Poor Outcome – Education Minister’. Independent. Available online from: https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2021-08-27/local-news/MATSEC-results-to-be-evaluated-to-find-reasons-for-poor-outcome-Education-Minister-6736236248 [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xxii] Farrugia, C. (2022) ‘Junior College No Longer Requires Passes in All Three Core Subjects’. Times of Malta. Available online from: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/junior-college-no-longer-requires-passes-in-all-three-core-subjects.943710#:~:text=Students%20previously%20needed%20passes%20in%20Maltese%2C%20English%20and%20Maths&text=Students%20applying%20to%20enter%20Junior,one%20of%20three%20science%20subjects. [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xxiii] Times of Malta (2019) ‘The Failing Education System’. Available online from: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-failing-education-system.701290 [Accessed 30/04/2022].

[xxiv] Ibid.; see also Bonnici; see also Vella, L. (2021) ‘Teachers Call for Action on Expert’s Report on State School Educators’ Challenges’. Malta Today. Available online from: https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/111164/teachers_call_for_action_on_experts_report_on_state_school_educators_challenges#.Ym1EO9pBzIV [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xxv] Vella (2021); see also Vella, Matthew (2020) ‘Teachers Left Breathless by Reforms “Rat Race”, Says Union Boss’.  Malta Today. Available online from: https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/100137/teachers_left_breathless_by_reforms_rat_race#.Yme-htpBzIW [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xxvi] Ibid.; see also Vella (2020); see also General Workers’ Union Malta, ‘Study: “Challenges that Educators Face”’. Available online from: https://gwu.org.mt/en/study-challenges-that-educators-face/ [Accessed on 30/04/2022].

[xxvii] Chircop, L. (2020) ‘Educators’ Constructions of Maltese Society’. Malta Journal of Education, Vol. 1(1), pp. 57-66.

[xxviii] Ibid., pp. 57, 59, 60 & 67-69.

[xxix] Times of Malta (2019); see also Bonnici.

[xxx] Fenech & Seguna, pp. 29-30, 34-38 & 40-41.

[xxxi] Frendo, F. (2021) ‘Reflections on the Little Rock: Assessing Migrant Inclusion in Maltese Post-Secondary Education’. Malta Journal of Education, Vol. 2(2), pp. 143, 145 & 150-153.

[xxxii] Ibid., pp. 154-155; see also Fenech & Seguna, pp. 40-41, 43-45 & 46.

Cover photo – https://www.kindpng.com/imgv/ihJhJbo_malta-map-flag-with-coat-of-arms-clip/, Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Ilham Tohti: An Activist Smiling in the Face of Injustice

Ilham Tohti,* a former ethnic Uyghur economics professor at the Beijing Minzu University, recently referred to as ‘China’s Mandela’ by the Guardian,[i] was detained on January 14th, 2014, for inciting separatism, ethnic hatred, and supporting terrorist activities because of his open criticism towards the Chinese governmental policies.[ii] Following his arrest, the two-day show trial between September 17th and 18th, 2014, that led to his condemnation and life imprisonment sentence, came as a great shock to many foreign as well as domestic observers, friends, and organizations who supported Ilham due to his prominent, intimidating, and foremost activism defending the autonomy, linguistic, cultural, and religious rights of minority ethnic Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking and commonly Muslim group, mostly inhabiting in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (henceforth XUAR). Ilham has been referred to as ‘the Uyghur people’s conscience’.[iii]



Ilham’s activism began in 1994 when he started writing about the violations suffered by Uyghurs in the XUAR. In 2006, he shifted the attention online when he and other scholars co-founded the website ‘Uyghur Online’ at uighurbiz.org. The website was a Chinese-language platform seeking to bridge the ongoing divisions between the Uyghur minority and the Han Chinese.[iv] The platform essentially served as a space on which Ilham could make the Uyghur voice heard domestically and internationally. It delved into how the Uyghur’s plight contained them feeling looked down upon by the general society and forgotten by the Chinese government regarding socio-economic development. Ilham would invite the Han to an open, peaceful, and rational platform to discuss and debate their differing views because, as he emphasised, the Han were not the enemies of the Uyghurs, despite their discriminatory and often violent attitude towards them.[v]

Through his website, Ilham promoted a peaceful and holistic approach and never once incited or encouraged violence. He was careful about clashing with governmental laws or underlying agreements that exist in civic society.[vi] However, the website began to attract the ire of the Chinese government, which shut the website down for the first time in June 2008 before China hosted the Olympic games. The government reasoned the shutdown on the basis that it publicised links to so-called Uyghur extremists based abroad.[vii] The major ethnic riots in Urumqi, the capital of the XUAR, and terrorist attacks inspired by a more aggressive reading of Islam on July 5th, 2009,[viii] resulted in approximately 200 people killed, 18,000 detained, and between 34 to 37 disappearances. Following this, Ilham openly spoke about the incident and published the names and faces of those who remained disappeared, eventually leading to his house arrest and later incommunicado detention on July 14th for roughly five weeks until, following international pressure, he was released.[ix]

Another crucial moment came when Ilham and his daughter, Jewher, were at the airport to board a flight to the U.S. because Ilham was to take up a position at Indiana University as a visiting scholar. He was stopped by the authorities, beaten, detained, and saw Jewher being put on the flight to the U.S. alone.[x] This incident marked the climax of Ilham’s story. In October 2013, an Uyghur family crashed their Jeep on the Jingshui Bridge of Tiananmen Square, which had been set on fire. The Chinese government labelled it a terrorist attack, which consequently resulted in Ilham increasing his visibility on foreign media of Britain, France, and the U.S., and led to ‘political policemen’ ramming into Ilham’s car on November 2nd when he was on his way to the airport to pick his mother up. The authorities used violence and intimidation, issuing threats to his family’s life if he did not stop talking to the foreign media.[xi] With the pressure being dialled up on Ilham to cease his vocal concerns, he began to express worry about his safety to his personal friends and, somewhat prophetically, in a telephone statement to Mihray Abdilim, a Uyghur Service reporter for Radio Free Asia, that surveillance on him by state security agents increased and felt as if his voice would soon be silenced. Based on this concern, he asked for his last words to be recorded and published only after his detention.[xii]


Arrest, violations, and a show trial

In January 2014, around 20 police officers raided Ilham’s apartment in Beijing and beat him in front of his two young children. They detained him and permanently shut his website down. On the following day, Hong Lei, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, explained that he had been ‘criminally detained’. The charges for his detention were disclosed in February when the Bureau of Public Security announced his formal arrest for ‘separatism’ – a vague account that allows for capital punishment – and for recruiting followers from his website.[xiii] His arrest triggered a wave of support for Ilham on the grounds that he had visibly argued against calls for XUAR independence and was in favour of the region remaining a part of China. The website Foreign Policy published their analysis on several of Ilham’s cached articles as part of his evidentiary record, and nowhere did they find any direct or indirect expression of separatism or independence.[xiv] Ilham was held at an undisclosed location for five months, barred from any contact with family or friends, and withheld from meeting his lawyer, Li Fangping, until June 26th, when Li reported that Ilham was enervated at being shackled during the first 20 days of his detention and was refused Halal food for the first 10 days of March. These acts constitute violations of international law and arguably fall under the scope of acts of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. Many believe and fear that Ilham may have possibly endured torture.[xv]

Ilham only saw his family after eight months of his hasty and unfair trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment by September 23rd, but denies all charges brought against him.[xvi] During the trial, the Prosecutors said that Ilham was portraying terrorists as heroes in his classes, internationalised the ‘Uyghur Question’, and made use of student testimonies that are assumed to have been obtained under duress. Some students faced forced strip searches after Ilham’s arrest, were detained, and some of whom remained missing for long periods, thus highlighting the prosecutors’ attempt to build an incriminating case alleging that Ilham was not the peaceful person who made himself out to be but was instead dangerous in the eyes of Chinese security and had to be silenced by being locked away.[xvii]


Behind Ilham’s struggle

But what is Ilham Tohti’s case really about? Uyghur-Han tensions have existed since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), simmering into pockets of unrest bursting from time to time and triggering harsher policies against Uyghurs, especially after Xi Jinping took the helm of government in March 2013 and later unveiled the ‘grand strategic plan’ for the XUAR in December of the same year, with Ilham expressing concerns that the pressure on Uyghurs was about to increase.[xviii] The Chinese government has framed the issue as the ‘Uyghur Question’ or the ‘Xinjiang Problem’ which they have attempted to solve through a process of Sinification, one that has existed for many centuries in Chinese history and that entails the promotion of assimilation rather than integration. It later encouraged the Han Chinese to migrate to the region through policies that favoured the Han over the Uyghurs, and which resulted in an imbalance of socio-economic development. Ilham fell victim to China’s use of censorship technology and laws, where today, even a single post on the Twitter-like app of Sina Weibo can land its author in jail if it seemingly criticises the Chinese government.[xix] Ilham’s imprisonment proves that the Chinese government does not acknowledge the bridge between Uyghurs and the Han. In response to the supposed terror attack by the Uyghurs on Han Chinese in the Kunming train station in March 2014, the government declared a ‘People’s War on Terror’ and targeted scholars, activists, journalists, writers, and human rights lawyers throughout 2014.[xx] The underlying contradiction is that the internet serves as the primary tool to connect human beings across geographical, social, cultural, and linguistic borders and on which much of today’s commerce and communication takes place. Instead, the Chinese government’s ‘Great Firewall’ blocks the consumption of foreign content from entering China and uses the internet as a bludgeoning tool to censor and control digital content according to the approved narrative of China’s image, interests, and policies, criminalizing the spreading of ‘rumours’ online and establishing a pre-registration requirement for any online account that shares political opinions or statements.[xxi]

As the author of this piece, and along with my colleagues at Broken Chalk, I feel a close affinity to the tragic story of Ilham Tohti and many others like him because I, too, have a personal blog where I discuss my concerns about current global affairs. Exercising freedom of expression in the way that Ilham did through his ‘bridge blog’ is not a crime, nor should it unjustly label Ilham as a terrorism supporter, a drug peddler, a weapon seller, or an American agent. He truly sought to get Uyghurs and the Han to engage in conversations, overlook their differences, and become more united as common people. He chose to use peaceful and informed ways of educating others about Uyghurs opposing the narrative that paints them as terrorists, evil, and security risks to the ethos or foundation of Chinese society. Instead, he became a political martyr for ethnic Uyghurs in XUAR, receiving numerous awards for defending and seeking to expand human rights and freedoms,[xxii] and a beacon that continues to shed light upon the precarious situation that Uyghurs have faced in China’s internment camps since 2017, where numerous human rights violations take the form of beatings, torture, rape, killings, forced labour, and the sterilisation of Uyghur women.[xxiii]

Ultimately, Ilham is remembered as knowledgeable and courageous and as having a drive and determination to fight for ethnic Uyghurs, keeping his head up in the face of injustice and intimidation by Chinese authorities.


* To read and learn more about Ilham Tohti, there is a recent publication named ‘We Uyghurs Have No Say: An Imprisoned Writer Speaks’ (Verso Books). It is a series of collected essays and articles by Ilham prior to his detention. A paperback and eBook version are available at: https://bit.ly/3wiP6Mv

*Author’s note: throughout the article, his first name is used. In Uyghur culture, his last name, ‘Tohti’, refers to his father’s name, akin to saying that Ilham is the son of Tohti.


Written by Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato



[i] Kennedy, H. (2022) ‘We Uyghur’s Have No Say by Ilham Tohti Review – A People Ignored’. The Guardian. Available online from: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/mar/09/we-uyghurs-have-no-say-ilham-tohti-review-background-genocide-china [Accessed on 20/03/2022].

[ii] Makinen, J. (2014) ‘China’s Detention of Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti Worries U.S.’. Los Angeles Times. Available online from: https://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-china-detention-professor-20140117-story.html#axzz2qljh0LfJ [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also Wong, E. (2014) ‘Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Goes in Trial in China on Separatist Charges’. The New York Times. Available online from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/world/asia/separatism-trial-of-ilham-tohti-uighur-scholar-begins-in-china.html?_r=0 [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also Wertime, D. (2014) ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’. China File. Available online from: https://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/media/internet-where-nobody-says-anything [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also Amnesty International, ‘Academicus Ilham Tohti: Levenslang Gevangengezet’. Available online from: https://www.amnesty.nl/wat-we-doen/themas/sport-en-mensenrechten/ilham-tohti [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also Denyer, S. & Rauhala, E. (2016) ‘To Beijing’s Dismay, Jailed Uighur Scholar Winds Human Rights Award’. The Washington Post. Available online from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/to-beijings-dismay-jailed-uighur-scholar-wins-human-rights-award/2016/10/11/d07dff8c-8f85-11e6-81c3-fb2fde4e7164_story.html [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also PEN America, ‘Ilham Tohti’. Available online from: https://pen.org/advocacy-case/ilham-tohti/ [Accessed on 19/03/2022].

[iii] Woeser, T. (2009) ‘Interview with Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti’. YouTube. Available online from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQT0iN1nMk8 [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’; see also Johnson, I. (2014) ‘”They Don’t Want Moderate Uighurs”’. China File. Available online from: https://www.chinafile.com/library/nyrb-china-archive/they-dont-want-moderate-uighurs [Accessed on 19/03/2022].

[iv] ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’; see also ‘To Beijing’s Dismay, Jailed Uighur Scholar Winds Human Rights Award’; see also Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, ‘Ilham Tohti’. United States Congress. Available online from: https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/defending-freedom-project/prisoners-by-country/China/Ilham%20Tohti#:~:text=Biography%3A%20Ilham%20Tohti%20is%20a,regional%20autonomy%20laws%20in%20China. [Accessed on 19/03/2022].

[v] ) ‘Interview With Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti’; see also PEN America (2014) ‘Ilham Tohti: 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award Winner’. YouTube. Available online from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm6YLWrnKPw [Accessed 19/03/2022].

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] ‘Ilham Tohti’. United States Congress; see also ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’.

[viii] known as 7/5 due to it being a sensitive date in China

[ix] ‘They Don’t Want Moderate Uyghurs’; see also PEN America, ‘Ilham Tohti’; see also Tohti, I. (2013) ‘The Wounds of the Uyghur People Have Not Healed’. Radio Free Asia. Available online from: https://www.rfa.org/english/commentaries/wounds-07052013134813.html [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also ‘To Beijing’s Dismay, Jailed Uighur Scholar Winds Human Rights Award’.

[x] PEN America, ‘Ilham Tohti’.

[xi] Ibid.; see also ‘They Don’t Want Moderate Uyghurs’; see also Tohti, I. (2013) ‘Uyghur Scholar Tohti Speaks About His Concerns Before Detention’. Radio Free Asia. Available online from: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/interview-02072014182032.html [Accessed on 19/03/2022]; see also ‘China’s Detention of Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti Worries U.S.’.

[xii] ‘Uyghur Scholar Tohti Speaks About His Concerns Before Detention’; see also ‘They Don’t Want Moderate Uyghurs’.

[xiii] PEN America, ‘Ilham Tohti’; see also ‘China’s Detention of Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti Worries U.S.’; see also ‘Ilham Tohti’. United States Congress; see also ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’.

[xiv] ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’

[xv] Ibid.; see also ‘Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Goes in Trial in China on Separatist Charges’; see also Cao, Y. (2014) ‘China in 2014 Through the Eyes of a Human Rights Advocate’. China File. Available online from: https://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/china-2014-through-eyes-human-rights-advocate [Accessed on 20/03/2022].

[xvi] ‘Academicus Ilham Tohti: Levenslang Gevangengezet’; see also ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’; see also ‘Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Goes in Trial in China on Separatist Charges’; see also ‘China in 2014 Through the Eyes of a Human Rights Advocate’.

[xvii] ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’; see also ‘China in 2014 Through the Eyes of a Human Rights Advocate’; see also ‘China’s Detention of Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti Worries U.S.’; see also ‘They Don’t Want Moderate Uyghurs’; see also ‘To Beijing’s Dismay, Jailed Uighur Scholar Winds Human Rights Award’.

[xviii] PEN America, ‘Ilham Tohti’; see also European Foundation for South Asia Studies, ‘Language, Religion, and Surveillance: A Comparative Analysis of China’s Governance Models in Tibet and Xinjiang’. Available online from: https://www.efsas.org/publications/study-papers/comparative-analysis-of-governance-models-in-tibet-and-xinjiang/ [Accessed on 20/03/2022].

[xix] Ibid.; see also ‘China in 2014 Through the Eyes of a Human Rights Advocate’; see also ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’.

[xx] ‘An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything’; see also ‘China in 2014 Through the Eyes of a Human Rights Advocate’.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ilham Tohti is the recipient of PEN America’s 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders who show deep commitment and face great personal risk, Liberal International’s 2017 Prize for Freedom, was nominated in 2019 and 2020 for the Nobel Peace Prize, and awarded in 2019 Freedom Award by Freedom House, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

[xxiii] ‘We Uyghur’s Have No Say by Ilham Tohti Review – A People Ignored’; see also ‘Academicus Ilham Tohti.


*cover photo taken from: https://www.omct.org/fr/ressources/declarations/ilham-tohti-2016-martin-ennals-award-laureate-for-human-rights-defender

Educational Challenges in the Republic of Colombia: Great Access, Little Quality

A ‘Silent Revolution’ in Education

When one thinks about Colombia today, what may first come to mind is the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar due to the hit Netflix series Narcos or the decades-long civil conflict waged between the Colombian Government and left-wing guerrilla groups, namely the National Liberation Army (ELN) or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the latter of whom recently signed a peace agreement with the Government in mid-2016. Despite this, Colombia is home to the second-largest amount of people in Latin America and has experienced a period of major economic growth that decreased the rate of poverty. Hailed as the ‘Colombian Miracle’, and more so a ‘silent revolution’ in education, Colombia has achieved this by expanding the learning outcomes of students, raising the bar in equal and equitable opportunities in schools, utilising the collection and analysis of data to make informed decisions and create policies, and focusing an increased amount of funding on seeing education reforms bear fruit.[i]

(Source: Education in Colombia: Highlights, OECD, 2016)

These educational achievements are primarily due to a firmer control over the consequences of Colombia’s troubled history of violent socio-political unrest since 1948 after the political assassination of Jorge Eliecer, resulting in the internal displacement of millions.[ii] Such control allowed the Colombian government to introduce reformed policies like ‘From Zero to Forever’ in 2010, which is now the common structure of handling the development and well-being of children through holistic measures; its 2014 ‘New School’ model to expand education to rural and poorer regions of Colombia by making it affordable and focusing on training teachers to create an environment that encourages a stimulating yet tailored education; and the ‘40 by 40 Program’ implemented by the former Education Secretary of Bogotá, Óscar Sánchez, that increased the number of hours in school to 40 hours per week for 40 weeks per year so that children can participate in extra-curricular activities like sports and art.[iii] These policies indeed raised the level and quality of education that each student received, as noted by the OECD, with participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC) and tertiary education increasing to 40% and 50% respectively, the rate of enrolment for 0-to-5 year olds went from 16% to 41% between 2007-2013, and increasing the gross enrolment from 57% to 76% between 2002-2012.[iv] This has been the case especially for girls, who between 1900 and 2000 saw their average years of completed education grow by 23% from 3 to 3.7 years, their completion of lower-secondary education increase from 37% in 1989 to 94% by 2011, and their representation in the labour market rise from 30% to 43% between 1990 and 2012.[v]

An Unequal Education System

Despite these positive actions, it is also true that there is still a long way to go for Colombia to establish an education system that is genuinely equal between private and public schools in urban and rural regions, which provide the same quality education, and both increase the net enrolment into education and retain attendance throughout the lifecycle of children’s education. In 2017, Children Beyond Our Borders, an organization working towards equal empowerment in education, reported that 37.2% of Colombian students did not continue their education past upper-secondary education. This has resulted in a significant gap for those who have attained a PhD degree, standing at a ratio of 7 per one million Colombians; 45.4% of students had dropped out of university since 2010 in contrast to the approximately 75% of students who dropped out of education by age 17; an estimated 37% of students started their education at a later period; and 41% repeated at least one grade by the age of 15.[vi] With regards to universities, this high dropout rate is mainly due to the overall system being overloaded and fragmented by lacking a standard curriculum for schools and the insufficient salaries paid to teachers that have led to a high rate of absenteeism. Still, because of the total 4.6% of GDP invested into education, only 0.5% went to rural areas, which might explain why two out of ten students from rural areas still cannot afford to access education, reproducing a vicious cycle of poverty, unemployment, and violence.[vii]

The 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) noted that over 70% of upper-secondary students lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills, creating a major barrier to enter public universities that require passing the standardized entrance exam called the SABER 11 (ICFES) that measures the level of performance in English, mathematics, natural sciences, social science, and civics across grades 3, 5, 9, and 11, and policy-makers have so far failed to respond to the higher rate of failure in public schools in comparison to private schools when taking the exam(s).[viii] In connection to this, there was significant tension since the early 2010s due to the Ser Pilo Paga initiative intentionally diverting funds to private institutions and subsidized approximately 32% of top-performing students to enter accredited, private universities through grants and financial loans, and was only suspended in 2018 when large numbers of students protested against this unjust inequality and demanded that President Ivan Duque Marquez increase expenditure for public universities whose tuition fees remained a barrier for many.[ix]

There remains an apparent mismatch of supply, in the sense that more Colombian students aspire to attain higher education (reportedly growing from 3,600 in 2001 to 6,276 by 2011), in parallel to a stagnant level of quality sometimes referred to as ‘garage universities’ running alongside the top-tier institutions ranking relatively high in regional and global rankings.[x] This is further illustrated in the sphere of inbound and outbound education opportunities, whereby although Colombians are the 7th largest population deciding to study English or enter vocational training abroad, the country remains an undesirable destination for foreign students, except for Venezuelans who face significant barriers.[xi]

Barriers to Venezuelan Refugees

The cross-sectional crisis in Venezuela since 2015 has caused millions of people to flee from societal collapse. By November 2020, 1.7 million Venezuelans were living in Colombia, out of which approximately 460,000 were school-aged children.[xii] Colombia’s government and civil society once again outshined most in granting Venezuelans access to healthcare and placed nearly 200,000 school-aged Venezuelans in education, primarily due to the cultural and linguistic similarities between the two populations.[xiii] However, barriers are still evident in cities like Cucuta, which have struggled with a high rate of out of school (OOS) children and unemployment. It was estimated that there would be 22,350 Venezuelan OOS from the 93,000 Venezuelans living in Cucuta by early 2020, compared to the 361,433 OOS Colombians nationwide.[xiv] Venezuelans and Colombians in schools are struggling to attain basic literacy and numeracy skills, with 69% and 65%, 61% and 64%, 70% and 68%, and 93% and 94% respectively falling below the benchmarks for oral reading fluency, reading comprehension capability, simple addition, and subtraction problems.[xv]

Another worrying issue is the fact that Venezuelan OOS children show higher signs of social and emotional learning (SEL) than their in-school peers, with 66% of Venezuelan and 63% of Colombian children respectively showing empathy in imagined negative scenarios in comparison to 76% of Venezuelan OOS, and young or disabled students become victims of bullying.[xvi] UNESCO acknowledged that other barriers are the indirect costs of transportation, uniforms, food, and school materials, as well as the fact that Venezuelan teachers have struggled to have their credentials recognized by Colombia, which could potentially reduce the lack of human resources and overcrowding in schools.[xvii] According to the International Rescue Committee, these barriers are a result of the overburdened educational system in Colombia, applauding access as the first step but calling for more focus on absorbing OOS children, combining academic and SEL tools, increasing teacher training, and adhering to the 2013 ‘Ley de Convivencia’, a provision that seeks to implement co-existence committees for all stakeholders of education.[xviii]

The COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak amplified the socio-economic and educational challenges across the board in Colombia, leaving many at risk of dropping out of education to enter the labour market.[xix] In a New York Times article, Gloria Vasquez explains how graduating in Colombia is a major achievement since, in the past, Colombians did not have the same opportunities for education, aptly explaining that ‘violence and crime are as common here as the ice cream cart that circles the block each afternoon’, and many parents in the past worked as ‘recyclers’ who roamed the streets to collect anything of value in order to attempt selling it.[xx] The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing fear that many children will drop out of education, especially since 50% of households cannot afford an internet connection and children did not have the digital means to follow their classes or complete their assignments, nor remain in contact with their teachers when schools closed, often burdening uneducated parents in ensuring the education of their offspring.[xxi]

Due to the financial fallout of the pandemic, an estimated 100,000 children dropped out of school in 2020.[xxii] In his interview with Peoples Dispatch, Harold Garcia, a Colombian popular educator and a secondary-school teacher, explained that cities and private schools were better equipped to handle the outbreak and doubled the work of teachers who raced to complete the curriculum whilst learning how to use and incorporate digital methods of teaching.[xxiii] Garcia further expressed the dissatisfaction with the administration of President Marquez during the outbreak, who diverted public spending critically needed by education towards national security measures and assisting banks.[xxiv] The 1.5 million indigenous peoples living in Colombia, on the other hand, gained attention during this time. The largest indigenous group, the Wayuu people, who predominantly inhabit the La Guajira region, were severely impacted by the closure of the tourism sector since 90% of them worked informally in it, and only 10% had sufficient internet access to work or learn remotely.[xxv] Initiatives by Fundación El Origen increased indigenous children’s access to virtual education in terms of language, through the use of applications, and through proving 260 Wayuu children with tablets, which both support the steps to expand the language of instruction to the 64 languages that are spoken outside of the official Spanish and aid indigenous peoples break the cycle of poverty.[xxvi]

Lastly, COVID-19 put children at significant risk of being recruited by the remaining guerrilla groups as child soldiers, rolling back the efforts achieved through the 2019 national plan and Case No. 7 of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace that aims to prevent the recruitment of and sexual violence against children, as well as the positive work being done by civil society organizations like the Misiones Salesians and Missioni Don Bosco Onlus to ensure access to education.[xxvii] It is a known strategy for these groups to target children who live in rural regions and come from a poor socio-economic background and are thus easier to coerce due to their lack of access to education and vocational training, but often become human shields, porters, spies, child brides, sex slaves, or used for labour activities in the ongoing civil conflict with the Colombian government.[xxviii] To address this persistent issue, the Borgen Project has recently called on both the Colombian government to implement stricter policies and measures that discourage recruitment, and demand that the international community adopts more substantial foreign aid plans that aims more towards holistic, collective progress.[xxix]


Colombia’s educational system has taken positive steps that have borne great results in access to education. Still, it underscores the quality that is both affordable and valuable in the outcomes that education ought to prepare students to attain higher levels of education or enter the labour market. Globally, education is an important asset which shows that the benefits outweigh the costs of injecting time and funding to boost the access, quality, outcomes, and value that each child receives through their education, serving as crucial defining moments in their future and of their countries. In this way, Colombia would not only address the other half of Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals concerning quality but also bolster its progress to reduce poverty, establish lasting mechanisms of peaceful and just resolution, streamline economic growth, achieve more robust levels of health and wellbeing, and closing the remaining inequality gaps.

Written by Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato


[i] Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2016) ‘Education in Colombia: Highlights’, pp. 2-3; see also Trines, S. (2020) ‘Education in Colombia’. World Education News + Reviews. Available online from: https://wenr.wes.org/2020/06/education-in-colombia-2/ [Accessed on 27/03/2022[.

[ii] Ventura, R. C. (2018) ‘Girls’ Education in Colombia Continues to on the Path of Progress’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/girls-education-in-colombia/ [Accessed 27/03/2022]; see also Gozzo, F. (2022) ‘The Struggle of Child Soldiers in Colombia’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/child-soldiers-in-colombia/ [Accessed on 27/03/2022].

[iii] Ibid.; see also ‘Education in Colombia’; see also Solivan, M. (2014) ‘A City’s Push for Access and Quality Education for All: Report on a Recent Visit to Bogota’. Brookings. Available online from: A City’s Push for Access and Quality Education for All: Report on a Recent Visit to Bogotá (brookings.edu) [Accessed on 27/03/2022]; see also ‘Education in Colombia: Highlights’, pp. 6 & 8.

[iv] ‘Education in Colombia: Highlights’, pp. 4, 6 & 10.

[v]  ‘Girls’ Education in Colombia Continues to on the Path of Progress’.

[vi] Moutter, C. (2017) ‘Colombia’s Education System’. Children Beyond Our Borders. Available online from: http://www.chbob.org/blog/colombias-education-system [Accessed on 27/03/2022]; see also ‘Education in Colombia’; see also Education in Colombia: Highlights’, pp. 6-7, 8 & 10.

[vii] Ibid.; see also ‘Education in Colombia’.

[viii] ‘Education in Colombia’; ‘Education in Colombia: Highlights’, p. 10

[ix] Ibid.; see also Alexandra, Z. (2020) ‘In Colombia, the Pandemic is Widening Inequality in Access to Education’. Peoples Dispatch. Available online from: https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/05/29/in-colombia-the-pandemic-is-widening-inequality-in-access-to-education/ [Accessed 27/03/2022].

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] International Rescue Committee (2020) ‘Colombia’s Education Crisis: Results from a Learning Assessment of Colombian and Venezuelan Children’, p. 2.

[xiii] Ibid.; see also ‘Education in Colombia’; see also United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (2020) ‘Significant Efforts by Colombia Ensure that Nearly 200,000 Children and Youth Have access to the Education System’. Available online from: https://en.unesco.org/news/significant-efforts-colombia-ensure-nearly-200000-venezuelan-children-and-youth-have-access [Accessed on 28/03/2022].

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid., pp. 3 & 4; see also ‘Significant Efforts by Colombia Ensure that Nearly 200,000 Children and Youth Have access to the Education System’.

[xvi] Ibid., p.5.

[xvii] ‘Significant Efforts by Colombia Ensure that Nearly 200,000 Children and Youth Have access to the Education System’.

[xviii] Ibid., pp. 5 & 6.

[xix] ‘Education in Colombia’; see also Turkewitz, J. (2021) ‘1+1 = 4? Latin American Confronts a Pandemic Education Crisis’. The New York Times. Available online from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/26/world/americas/latin-america-pandemic-education.html [Accessed 28/03/2022]; see also ‘In Colombia, the Pandemic is Widening Inequality in Access to Education’.

[xx] 1+1 = 4? Latin American Confronts a Pandemic Education Crisis’.

[xxi] Ibid.; see also ‘In Colombia, the Pandemic is Widening Inequality in Access to Education’.

[xxii] Pope, L. (2021) ‘Virtual Learning for Colombia’s Indigenous People’. The Borgen Project. Available online from: https://borgenproject.org/colombias-indigenous-people/ [Accessed on 28/03/2022].

[xxiii] ‘In Colombia, the Pandemic is Widening Inequality in Access to Education’.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] ‘Virtual Learning for Colombia’s Indigenous People’.

[xxvi] Ibid.; see also ‘Education in Colombia’.

[xxvii] ‘The Struggle of Child Soldiers in Colombia’.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

Cover Image by Rafael Socarras from Pixabay

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Philippines

Broken Chalk is a non-profit organization that addresses the respect and enforcement of the right to education. Therefore, it is concerned on how the Philippines has expanded the access to quality education on an equal level across all levels and age groups without discrimination since the conclusion of the Universal Periodic Review’s 3rd Cycle in late 2017. Nearly 24% of the statements made by the 95 delegations during the Working Group’s Interactive Dialogue on 18th July 2017 focused on education and other issues such as the gender gap, discrimination, and human trafficking which affect the access, outputs, and outcomes of education.(1)

From 257 recommendations that these delegations put forward, the Philippines accepted all those concerning education under paragraphs 133.219 – 133.225 of the Working Group’s Report in its Addendum.(2) Thus, the Philippines accepted to prioritise public education in its budgetary expenditure; increase net enrolment for girls in pre-primary and primary education; generate legislation that increases access to quality education for vulnerable learners; and ensure education remains compulsory and free. These serve as a baseline for Broken Chalk to highlight new and persistent issues that impact the right to education within the state and conclude whether they were satisfied by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) whilst calling for actions that address the current trends and issues in a holistic manner.

By Karl Baldacchino 

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Cover image by Alloizajean.