Reply from ABTTF to Kosmidou's article

Western Thrace
Sat, 27 Apr 2024 12:31 GMT
ABTTF President Halit Habipoğlu stated that the Acting Director of Education of the Province of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace ignored the educational autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace.
Reply from ABTTF to Kosmidou's article

Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) President Halit Habipoğlu reacted to Meri Kosmidu, Acting Director of Education of the Eastern Macedonia - Thrace Province, for her views in her article on minority education.

Meri Kosmidu, Acting Director of Education of the Province of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, wrote an article in Turkish and Greek about the education of the Turkish community in Western Thrace.

ABTTF President responded to the allegations in Kosmidu's article titled "Five facts about minority education".

Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), responded directly to the article of Kosmidu which ignores the educational autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, reflects the official view of the state and does not include the educational demands of the institutions and organisations of the Turkish community in any way.

ABTTF's response to Kosmidu is as follows:

First fact: Kosmidu states that there are 311 public primary schools in Western Thrace where 15.250 students study without discrimination of religion, and that within the framework of the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne and the relevant educational protocols, a total of 90 minority primary schools, 47 in Rhodope, 34 in Xanthi and 9 in Evros, are in operation and a total of 3.255 students study in these primary schools.

Habip Oğlu: "Although we had educational autonomy in accordance with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, our educational autonomy was usurped with unilateral laws and circulars since 1972. Until 1977, the salaries of the teachers for Turkish lessons in our bilingual schools were paid by the council committees elected by the parents. This was the case even during the 1967-1974 period when the military junta was in power in our country."

Second fact: Kosmidu stated that the population is decreasing in the Western Thrace region, as in other parts of Greece, and accordingly the number of students is also decreasing, and that there cannot be a school without students, therefore schools with less than the critical number of students are merged in order to have the required minimum number of students.

Habip Oğlu: "Demographic decline is an important problem not only in our country but also in other European Union member states and neighbouring countries, but the main reason for the low number of students in our primary schools in our villages in Western Thrace is not the decrease in the population in these areas but the parents' preference for state schools. The reason for this preference is the decrease in the quality of education in our schools due to the state control of our autonomous schools."

Third fact: Kosmidu notes that minority education enjoys many privileges, for example, the limit for suspension of school activities for public schools is one teacher per classroom and 15 students in total, while the limit for minority schools is two teachers per classroom and 9 students in total, thus claiming that many minority schools are still operating when they should be suspended.

Habip Oğlu: "Yes, minority education has many privileges, such as bilingual education in our schools, both in our mother tongue and in the language of our country. If our country had restored our educational autonomy, the number of students in our schools would have increased and therefore the number of classrooms would have increased."

Fourth fact: Kosmidu states that while 19 state schools were suspended in 2023 due to the preferential treatment of minority schools, only 9 minority schools were suspended in the same period and that 70% of the minority schools in (Western) Thrace are small minority schools, while only 7% of the state schools are small state schools.

Habip Oğlu: "Since 1977, when our educational autonomy was usurped and our schools were under the control of the state, the number of students in our primary schools in our villages has been constantly decreasing. Furthermore, there is not a single Turkish kindergarten in the province of Rhodope, where we constitute the majority of the population, and in the province of Xanthi, where we constitute about half of the population. The number of state kindergartens in each of these two provinces is 141. Again, there is only one Turkish minority secondary school and high school in these two provinces, while there are 25 state secondary schools and high schools in Rhodope and 32 in Xanthi. While we had 226 primary schools in our region in 2003, this number has decreased to 90 in the 2023-2024 academic year. If the state had heard our rightful demand that we have been voicing for years and restored our educational autonomy, the classrooms in our schools would be full and our schools would be more than public schools in direct proportion to the population ratio in these two provinces."

Fifth fact: Kosmidu notes that the Greek state fully covers the transport costs of minority pupils and the running costs, including cleaning, of minority schools, but that this funding is managed by the relevant committees of councillors, whose members are the parents of the pupils and who are elected by them, and that this has a clear impact on the equipment of minority schools, ultimately making some minority schools superior to state schools in terms of equipment. Kosmidu claims that Greece has fully respected the Treaty of Lausanne and its educational protocols and has created an impressively privileged framework of support for minority education that the minority deserves, and that all children, whether in public or minority schools, must be provided with the best environment in which to develop their skills and talents.

Habip Oğlu: "Kosmidu's comparison of the equipment of our primary schools with that of public schools is completely absurd and illogical. It is our country itself that violated our educational autonomy, which was guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne and functioned well from 1923 to 1977, with unilateral laws and practices! If our country restores our educational autonomy, all the existing problems will be solved by themselves. Kosmidu says that what matters is only children and their future and that the identity of students must be respected. We expect Kosmidu to show this in practice, not in words, and we recommend him to examine the minority education model in the German-Danish border region, where the identity of the students is fully respected and bilingual education is perfectly implemented, as a good example.

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