Turkey: 7 Remaining Greek Schools Struggling to Survive with 281 Students

By Uzay Bulut

The new school year has started in Turkey, and it brings terrible news for the country’s dying Greek community, as only 281 students will study in seven Greek Orthodox schools in Turkey.

Journalist Melike Çapan reported in the news website Independent Turkish that twenty-three students graduated from Greek schools this past year, but only thirteen new students enrolled in those schools for the new academic year. Only five or ten new students enroll each year in the schools, five of which are in Constantinople (Istanbul) and two on the small island of Imbros.

The schools receive no funding from the Ministry of National Education; the Greek community foundations in Turkey support them. And only Greek Orthodox students are allowed to study in the Greek schools- a requirement introduced in 1968 by the Turkish Ministry of National Education.

Çapan interviewed the principals of the two Greek schools in Constantinople and the one in Imbros about how these historic educational institutions are struggling to survive. Below is some of the information she presented:

*Phanar Greek Orthodox Lyceum

Phanar Greek Orthodox Lyceum: Known in Greek as the Great School of the Nation, the Phanar Greek school was established in Constantinople in 1454. Famous for its magnificent architecture, the educational institution had only forty-three students last year. Five students graduated from its high school while only one graduated from middle school. Six new students enrolled this year. Most are Orthodox students from Hatay, southern Turkey.

Zografeion Lyceum: Established in 1848 in Constantinople, the school had 522 students in its founding year. It currently has fifty students. Eleven graduated this year, while seven new students enrolled.

Imbros (Gökçeada) Private Primary School: Opened as “the Hagia Todori” in 1951 on the island of Imbros in the Aegean Sea, the elementary school was closed by the Turkish government in 1964. It was reopened in 2012 with only four students. The school currently has seventeen students.

These numbers are indicative of the almost complete annihilation of the indigenous Greek people of Turkey by the Turkish government.

The persecution of Greeks, however, did not start with the coming to power of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002. Before, during and after World War I, for instance, the Greeks and other Christians in the Ottoman Empire were exposed to a state-led genocidal campaign that lasted for at least ten years and nearly eliminated them. And sadly, the anti-Greek campaign did not end even after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, it has systematically continued for decades since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923. For instance, during its October 1991 fact-finding mission to Turkey, Helsinki Watch found that”

“The problems experienced by the Greek minority today include harassment by police; restrictions on freedom of expression; discrimination in education involving teachers, books and curriculum; restrictions on religious freedom; limitations on the right to control their charitable institutions; and the denial of ethnic identity. These problems are also suffered by the few remaining Greeks living on the islands of Imbros and Tenedos.

“Education is a matter of great concern to the Greek minority. Greek children are not allowed to study Greek history; teachers from Greece who are supposed to teach the children Greek, English, music, gym and art are not permitted to arrive in Turkey until the school year is well under way; Greek-language textbooks are old and out of date; students are discouraged from speaking Greek; and the Greek community cannot control the hiring or assignment of teachers or access to schoolbooks.

Read more here: Greek City Times

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