Teachers turn out in thousands across Turkey to protest violence in education

Thousands of teachers on May 10 convened in Istanbul to demand increased school safety measures and policies that prioritized teachers’ safety from the Education Ministry. Various education worker unions called for mass protests across Turkey after a student killed school principal İbrahim Oktugan.

Teachers and education unions march to the Istanbul Education Directorate.

Duvar English

Education workers on May 10 protested the recent murder of school principal İbrahin Oktugan and demanded increased safety measures from Turkey’s Education Ministry in Istanbul’s Beyazıt district.

Thousands convened at Beyazıt Square with the call from multiple teachers’ unions and marched to the Istanbul Education Directorate to voice their demands. 

Many teachers across Turkey supported the call from their unions with a one-day strike, abstaining from classes and administrative duties. 

The Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) focused on the underlying systemic problems that have caused the gun attack. 

Eğitim-Sen carries a banner that reads "NO to defamation policies and violence in education!"

“We know that the murder has more than one perpetrator. The mentality behind the attack is the one that alienates and targets us with threats at every possible opportunity,” stated the union representative.

The union directed questions to Education Minister Yusuf Tekin, “How many more education workers should die before you prevent violence in schools?” 

“Our schools are gravely compromised due to the haphazard attitude of the government and the Education Ministry. Are we going to pay for this with our lives?”

According to the union, the instigators were familiar to the teachers of Turkey. 

“As many murders we witnessed in the past, the instigators are those who belittle our work, and discredit our profession. Those who incite violence in schools are whoever refused to hear our suggestions and criticisms for years.”

The union called upon authorities to resolve school security problems, with a “violence in education law.”  

Additionally, the Education Ministry was to prepare an action plan to prevent violence in schools and respond to incidents. 

The attackers should be punished in a way that deterred future events and calmed public conscience, held the union. 

Touching upon the newly announced curriculum, the union stated that lesson plans should involve social life lessons and discourage violence in every form, instead of the “thousands of unnecessary and harmful content” the ministry decided to include. 

“We do not want to come to work while worrying about our own and students’ wellbeing, we refuse an education system that ignores our life safety,” concluded the union’s statement. 

Seven teachers' unions unfurl a joint banner, "We were beaten-shot-killed. We demand the violence in education law!" during the protest in Turkey's Bursa province.

Simultaneous protests took place in the capital Ankara, western İzmir, Edirne, Bursa,  Kocaeli, eastern Hakkari, Van, Elazığ, Erzurum, southeastern Urfa, central Eskişehir, southern Mersin, Hatay, northern Trabzon, and Zonguldak provinces.