Billions to be spent on ‘legitimate’ Turkish schools across South Africa

Planning for Maarif-branded Turkish schools are at an advanced stage with the first ones ready within two years. Al Qalam reports in an exclusive interview.

The Turkish Government is poised to invest heavily in South Africa in terms of education, including building a university in Gauteng, Al Qalam learnt this week.

The projects are headed by Adem Koc of Istanbul as Director and Ebrahim Seedat, a highly experienced South African chief education strategist.

The Government sanctioned body – the Turkish Maarif Foundation which operates running 300 schools and unıversıtıes in 35 countries worldwide – does not recognize anti-establishment institutions currently operating in South Africa because they allegedly are not politically aligned with the state’s mission.

“Guellenist-aligned schools which are already operational in South Africa are not Turkish schools. The Turkish Maarif Foundation is the only legitimate educational organ of the government of Turkey in foreign countries and its schools are recognizable by the name “Maarif” and the distinctive logo of the Foundation,” Seedat told Al Qalam in an exclusive interview.

A high-level delegation hosted an event in Durban recently to introduce the Foundation’s educational plans for the region and the rest of South Africa.

Among the delegates were the Acting Executive Mayor of Ethekwini, Councillor Fawzia Peer, executive members of Minara Chamber of Commerce KZN, representatives of Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers (AMAL), university professors, schools principals and a representative of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE).

The Director of Maarif Foundation of South Africa, Adem Koc, commenced the programme with a qiraat, screened a video of the violent attempted coup by the terrorist FETO organization of the Guellenists in 2015 and then presented the origins and international outreach of Turkish Maarif Foundation.

The Chief Education Strategist of the Foundation, Ebrahim Seedat, traced the roots of the Foundation in the Anatolian Tradition to explain the rationale for its Vision particularly cultural symbiosis and diversity.

He also clarified the values and the curriculum of the “Maarif Brand” and provided details of the activities and progress of the Foundation in South Africa to date.

Ebrahim Ansur, Vice-Chairman of Association of Muslim Schools of South Africa and Secretary-General of the National Alliance of Independent Schools of South Africa (NAISA) provided a vivid review of his recent experience of education in Turkey as co-ordinator of a group of heads of South African Muslim Schools which included a reception at the Headquarters of Turkish Maarif Foundation in Istanbul and visits to Imam Hatip Schools which follow integrated curricula of revealed and acquired sciences and have foreign students as well.

Seedat told Al Qalam that the intention at the outset is to open one or more schools in each of the major cities of South Africa.

“Among the sites that we have been appraising are schools that are already operating and properties that lend themselves to redesigning and refurbishing according to our specifications to meet our short term goals. Suitable vacant land has also been identified to build schools from scratch and the appropriate negotiations with the respective owners are in progress. In addition, proposals have been made for the possible transfer of underutilized state schools to the Foundation for transformation so as to meet the aspirations of communities.  

“Although we are anxious to roll out our plans without delay, many factors impinge on our timeframe, mainly of a legislative nature. Currently, robust developments are afoot in Cape Town and Johannesburg and our office is responding with equal vigour to expressions of interest from other cities in South Africa as well as from the neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.

“Based on demographics and socio-economic factors, Gauteng is the likely location of the first Turkish based tertiary institution in South Africa. Although much needs to be explored, particularly with the official collective organs of tertiary education in South Africa, the Foundation is alert to the rich potential of sharing Turkey’s experience and infrastructure particularly in vocational and technical education with South Africa and Africa at large. An energızed response has already been elıcıted from one of Turkey’s leadıng unıversıtıes to the proposal that it lead the initiative in that regard,” he added.

Opportunities

Maarif schools and universities are for people of all faiths. There will be a masjid on the premises of every institution but built by private individuals who have pledged their commitment. The Foundation will respond to opportunities for the provision of Islamic education to its students who require it but outside of the school programme, akin to the Maktab system.

Seedat said the Foundation intends establishing institutions of learning from kindergarten to tertiary level in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.

“In keeping with its brief and indeed with the noble ideals of the Constitution of South Africa, as a registered Non-Profit Company the Foundation will make its brand of high quality but affordable education accessible to all racial, socio-economic and religious groups even to the extent of providing transport and financial assistance to learners from marginalized sectors of the community. Opportunities will be created, also, for South African youth to proceed to Turkey on scholarships and the Foundation will explore the possibilities of engaging with the relevant authorities in the development of mutually beneficial curriculum and staff development programmes.

“The schools of excellence envisaged by Turkish Maarif Foundation will offer the South African CAPS curriculum as required by legislation as well as a wide range of sports and other co-curricular offerings to facilitate the growth of balanced learners with exciting prospects in a modern world. The Foundation embraces the STREAM paradigm of Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics so that its students will be well-rounded individuals with rich knowledge spanning robotics and coding but equally equipped with character of the highest order. A university is also envisaged, most probably in Gauteng, to serve as the hub of tertiary education to address pan-African needs. The Foundation will broker the active participation of Turkish tertiary institutions to benefit South Africa and the continent at large, he added.

He said the intention at the outset is to open one or more schools in each of the major cities of South Africa. Among the sites that we have been appraising are schools that are already operating and properties that lend themselves to redesigning and refurbishing according to our specifications to meet our short term goals.

 “Suitable vacant land has also been identified to build schools from scratch and the appropriate negotiations with the respective owners are in progress. In addition, proposals have been made for the possible transfer of underutilized state schools to the Foundation for transformation so as to meet the aspirations of communities.  

“Although we are anxious to roll out our plans without delay many factors impinge on our timeframe, mainly of a legislative nature. Currently, robust developments are afoot in Cape Town and Johannesburg and our office is responding with equal vigour to expressions of interest from other cities in South Africa as well as from the neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.

Based on demographics and socio-economic factors, Gauteng is the likely location of the first Turkish based tertiary institution in South Africa. Although much needs to be explored, particularly with the official collective organs of tertiary education in South Africa, the Foundation is alert to the rich potential of sharing Turkey’s experience and infrastructure particularly in vocational and technical education with South Africa and Africa at large. An energized response has already been elicited from one of Turkey’s leading unıversıtıes to the proposal that it lead the initiative in that regard.

Developers have been engaged for our identified projects and negotiations with them are underway. With due regard especially for physical planning and construction work as well as protocols of registration of new schools with departments of education, we expect our first schools to be ready to serve South Africa in January 2021.

Mettle Administrative Services

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