There are instructions for sermons favouring optional religion lessons to be read in mosques. Muftis and imams are giving “reminders” to parents for their children to opt for these lessons. Religion lessons, branded “optional”, are effectively being made compulsory with religious formations also being brought in to create “awareness” with banners and brochures in sub-provinces. The “package optional lesson programmes” created by school heads either consist entirely of “optional religion” lessons or there is at least one lesson with religious content in each package programme.
Tomorrow is the final day for optional lesson applications and the Education and Science Workers' Union has started a campaign with the slogan, “Leave it free and let the choice be free.” The union’s General Chair Feray Aytekin Aydoğan, recalling the article in the optional lesson regulation: “If at least ten pupils at schools select the same lesson, the optional lesson in question can be taught,” spoke as follows:
“It is abundantly clear that this article is not being applied. In addition, the article: ‘If lessons are selected for which there is an inadequate number of teachers in the subject in question at schools, teachers shall be supplied through appointments from other school in return for salary/additional lesson payments, and, if this is also impossible, these lessons may be made available by appointing teachers on a fee basis’ is not in practice being applied and the lack of teachers is cited as the reason for not making requested lessons available to pupils. Even though the article: ‘With reference to procedures to be conducted concerning the aim, promotion and selection of optional lessons, information will be supplied by all school heads’ offices especially as concerns fourth year pupils and parents’ in the regulation mentions promotion of all lessons, all that goes on in practice more than suffices to show us that there are promotional activities for religion lessons alone.”
Letter to schools
Aydoğan, pointing out that by means of a letter sent to schools from Kocaeli Governate it is wished for sermons to be prepared at all mosques and for contact to be made with parents and for them to be persuaded with a view to all lessons in this area being selected, said, “The practice being carried out in Kocaeli province has by now become routine since the 4+4+4 law. Optional religious lessons have, with the intervention of school heads, provincial and sub-provincial directors of national education, provincial governates, sub-provincial governates, muftis’ offices and imams, been made compulsory at all secondary education institutions.”
A statement made by Kocaeli Education and Science Workers' Union, stressing that lessons with religious content are being incentivised using various methods, continued, “An example came from Kilis. On posters that the province Directorate of National Education commissioned, middle and high school pupils are asked to select religion lessons by way of optional lessons. There have also been social media posts about this. What this situation boils down to is the making of religion lessons compulsory while calling them optional and the marshalling of the full force of the administration to this end. We hereby ask: Is it the priority task of the provincial directorate of national education and school heads to ensure that pupils take these lessons? Are pupils and parents who select other lessons regarded as being worthless within the National Education body? Is there no need for other lessons? Is what is being done not a crime? What is the Ministry of National Education doing with regard to this compulsion?”
Religion lesson is optional on paper