Demirel College Shut Down, Parents & Pupils Devastated
The Private Demirel Private College was officially closed today in a decision made by the National Center for Education Equality Enhancement, a trusted source informed GEORGIA TODAY.
The school’s manager, Mustafa Emre Çabuk, has been detained since May 24, with his pre-extradition in a detention facility extended for another three months last week for alleged association with Fethullah Gülen‘s terrorist organization.
There has been a great political focus on Georgian-Turkish schools since the coup against Turkey’s President Erdogan last year, especially those educating non-Georgian students.
“It is vital to speak the language of the country you live in,” Çabuk told GEORGIA TODAY in an exclusive interview last year, “and the school is making every effort to make sure the Turkish families coming to Georgia have that opportunity”.
Of the 320 students studying at Lyceum Skhivi, a partner school of Demirel Private College, 250 are Georgian and 70 are Turkish. Strictly following the rules of the Georgian National Curriculum, Skhivi is said to pay close attention to teaching the Georgian language, increasing it from a regular five hours to nine in the first and second grades and to eight hours in the third and fourth grades.
For alleged political reasons, as well as debt, the Demirel Private College was forced to move premises late last summer from the more central Ortachala district to Varketili district, the distance leaving a number of pupils unable to attend.
“I feel really sad now because of what happened to our school,” Gvanca, an 8th grader at Demirel told GEORGIA TODAY. “To me, that school was everything. Everything was great until the day they closed it and I don’t think they’ll do anything to change their stance or that they’ll listen to people’s opinions on why they shouldn’t close it. Every student in Demirel was my close friend. They’re all really bright. I still can’t believe they had to do this to us”.
Gvanca moved to the Skhivi school, Tbilisi, from the Shahin school in Batumi, also part of the Chaglar group of schools. Last year, she joined Demirel, not knowing it was to be her last in the Chaglar education system. Other schools under the umbrella of the firm Chaglar Educational Institutions, aside from Demirel, are: Lyceum Skhivi, Marneuli David Agmashenebeli School (at which all 146 pupils are Azerbaijani), Kutaisi Niko Nikoladze School, Rustavi Rustaveli School and Shahin. All are partners of Demirel, owned by it. Chaglar Nikoloz Tsereteli International School of Tbilisi (CIS) was closed last year.
The Demirel pupil’s parents point out that the closure of Demirel Private College comes late for the 500 pupils who will have to register at new schools before the start of term. Some of the pupils plan to transfer to the partner school Skhivi, however, many of them fear that Skhivi will be next on the “political list” for shut down.
We are awaiting official comments from the Demirel College administration and other authorities regarding the closure.
UPDATE 31/08: Parents of Demirel Private College students plan to meet with Tamar Sanikidze, Head of the National Center for Education Equality Enhancement today.
“They have questions and I’ll try to answer them,” Sanikidze told Rustavi 2, “The authorization council members have high competence and everything was done according to the educational standards. There was no political influence or intervention regarding the issue,” she added.
Gvantsa Lomaia, Lawyer from the Tolerance and Diversity and Institute says that the scenarios in Shahin School and Demirel College appear similar: both being now closed with their authorization cancelled without notice.
UPDATE 30/08: It has been reported that Demirel College failed to pass authorization, with the necessary standards not being met.
“The State Commission, which either grants or refuses in authorization, acts according to Georgian legislation, which sets certain requirements for authorization,” Gia Murgulia, Authorization Council Deputy at the National Center for Education Equality Enhancement, told Imedi TV. He went on to claim that Authorization Council members are not motivated for any school to be closed down, that violations had been found in the study process, and that “not every pupil was registered in the school”.
As TV Imedi reports, Murgulia alleged that at Demirel College it turned out that a foreign citizen, who does not speak the Georgian language at all, was able to pass six or seven exams in Georgian and receive an approved document that he/she is a graduate of the Georgian educational space, meaning they can go on to enter any educational institution of any other country with the given Georgian documentation.
Bm.ge (buisnesscontact.ge) reports that, according to the information they got from the National Center for Education Equality Enhancement, Demirel had “problems with infrastructure, resources and staff, with Turkish teachers employed on programs that needed to be taught in the Georgian language”.
The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) reports that the head of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Education of Georgia, Nata Asatiani, has announced that the former Demirel College students and teachers will be transferred to different educational institutions. According to GPB, the College administration admits that there were certain flaws, but thy were not given enough time to eliminate them and the school authorization was cancelled without any warning.
“Demirel College had violations, but at the same time it had very good pupils and very competent teachers,” Asatiani told GPB. “We will do our best to make the process of their transferral to other schools as painlessl as possible. We’re negotiating with several schools which have expressed their readiness to receive pupils and teachers from Demirel College. The results will be made public shortly”.
The College lawyer is due to release an official statement shortly.
By Nino Gugunishvili
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