Say Yes, Autumn 2003: Haydi Kızlar Okula! (2)

UNICEF Turkey Representative, Edmond McLoughney and Professör İhsan Doğramacı

Turkey’s leading advocate for education, Professor İhsan Doğramacı, presents a personal contribution of US$125,000 to Edmond McLoughney for the Haydi Kızlar Okula! campaign. Photograph © Professor İhsan Doğramacı 2003

The poverty factor is a double-bind where girls are concerned since cultural tradition and patriarchal family structures prioritise the needs of men and boys over girls and women -- even amongst women and girls themselves.

Many do not view the education of girls as being very important: their early marriage is more of a priority and many are kept at home to help with household chores until they are of marriageable age. Here the problem of poverty is compounded by tradition since large families are the frequent result -- in şırnak the total fertility rate is seven.

The cycle of economic and social obstacles to girls’ education is easily perpetuated.

Although incentives such as stationery supplies are offered to persuade poor families to send their children to school, families who are already sending their girls and boys can be aggrieved when they see neighbours benefitting this way. All ten provinces have social aid systems for the administration of such incentives but it is generally agreed that the system is unfair since some benefit over others. Batman, where 25% of girls are out of school has said that no girl should stay out of school because of the expense -- the province will help.

Families who want to educate their children find that opportunities for secondary level education are relatively scarce. Even the compulsory eight years primary level requirement is problematical since many village schools only teach students up to the fifth grade. The enforced drop-out of students beyond fifth grade adds to out of school statistics for 11-14 year olds.

The absence of female role models means that there is little to stir the aspirations of girls in villages. Although a third of teachers are women, most of them are assigned to cities and towns rather than villages. This is unfortunate since there is a general conviction that female teachers would be more successful in persuading families to send their daughters to school and parents would be more comfortable if their daughters were taught by women.

Strong leadership as well as good example is vital for the success of the campaign. When enrolment figures for this new academic year are released, the most successful districts awill lmost certainly be those with the most engaged Provincial and District authorities.

The Prime Minister, Mr Tayyip Erdoğan, spoke of the campaign in an address to the nation which was televised days before schools re-opened in mid-September. Strong advocacy and support from the upper echelons of government will undoubtedly boost the efforts of those on the ground as the campaign rolls into its first year.

The Minister of National Education, Dr Hüseyin Çelik also recorded a television spot for distribution and broadcast on all channels throughout the Autumn schedule.

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