Provincial directorate of education assigns religious officials to one third of Izmir schools

Turkey’s Education Ministry has been assigning imams and preachers to schools across the country. İzmir Provincial Directorate of Education assigned religious officials to one-third of the schools in the province after a protocol was signed with the Religious Affairs Directorate’s office.

Duvar English

İzmir Provincial Directorate of Education and the Religious Affairs Directorate’s office have signed a protocol under the project named “I am sensitive to my environment, I claim my values.” Within the scope of the protocol, the directorate of education assigned spiritual counselors to the schools in the province. 

Religious Affairs Directorate’s Quran instructors, preachers, and religious service specialists were assigned in 842 different schools which is one third of the all schools in the province, according to daily BirGün

In the letter sent to schools, the directorate noted that the spiritual counseling protocol was signed in order to "contribute to the upbringing of students as physically and socially balanced individuals who adopt and protect the national, spiritual, moral, humanitarian and cultural values with a sound mind, heart, and taste."

Reacting to the protocol, the head of the No. 1 İzmir Branch of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim Sen) chair Necip Vardal said, "While there are counselors who provide counseling services and teachers who teach Religious Culture and Ethics in our schools, the appointment of people without any pedagogical formation is against the laws.” He stated that this practise aimed at eliminating public and secular education and they will fill a criminal complaint against it. 

The same practice has been enacted in Eskişehir and Aydın provinces as well.

Last year, the "spiritual counseling" system in public dormitories was terminated after three students living in dorms on the campus of Akdeniz University committed suicide within a month. Students, on the other hand, said that they experienced “religious pressure” in the dormitories.

The government first introduced “spiritual counseling” system in 2015. Quran instructors, who participated in the “Spiritual Counseling Certificate Program” initiated within universities and received one month of training, were assigned to hospitals under the title of "spiritual counselor.“ In the past eight years, the scope of the practice was expanded and spiritual counselors started to work in orphanages, nursing homes, prisons, and public dormitories. Finally, the Education Ministry has started to assign them to schools.