Turkish preschool forces students to fast as part of Ramadan activity in ‘values’ class

A parent’s social media post in Turkey’s western Sakarya province has revealed that kindergarten students at the Islamic foundation-affiliated school were forced to fast until midday as a Ramadan activity. The incident drew criticism as yet another example of religion entering schools. 

Duvar English

A kindergarten in Turkey’s Sakarya province has organized Ramadan events that involved the students fasting until midday, revealed March 23 reporting by the daily Cumhuriyet. 

The private kindergarten was affiliated with religious foundations under the Erenköy cult. The social media post of the school showed students donning Islamic robes and caps and praying. 

One parent’s post that drew attention to the incident read, “My son’s school had a Ramadan feast today. They fasted until noon and broke their fasts in an unforgettable event, I was mesmerized.”    

The post made the rounds on social media, which brought up similar events in other schools. 

Some users shared instances where students prepared “Ramadan calendars” in class, with checklists that included tasks such as “Fasting through the day,” “Reading the Quran each day,” and “doing the daily Ramadan prayer (Tarawih).”  

Yücel Kaçar, the Sakarya branch head of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) admitted such school activities were “unfortunately” becoming the norm in Turkey. 

“We see similar occurrences in many institutions, and we are unable to prevent them as parents and locals seem to encourage it,” he complained. 

The union strongly discouraged any religious education at the preschool level, as it could negatively impact children’s psychological development. 

Kaçar added that the union has requested the provincial education directorate of Sakarya to launch an investigation into the incident. 

Eğitim-Sen has been a staunch critic of religion entering the national curriculum, especially the ÇEDES (“I am Sensitive to my Environment, I Stand Up for my Values”) project. 

The state-backed and highly controversial project is an initiative by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Education Ministry (MEB), and Youth and Sports Ministry.

The project aims to deliver “values education” to students but has been criticized for shaping behavior aligned with the Turkish government’s conservative ideals.

In the initial version of the ÇEDES protocol enacted in 2021, only secondary schools and İmam Hatip schools were included in the project.

However, with an additional protocol signed last year, the project was extended to encompass all students, including preschoolers.

As part of the program, students are taught about practices such as sacrifice rituals, and mourning at graves. Students are exposed to non-age-appropriate concepts like “martyrdom” through an Islamic perspective in these activities.