When I was six years old and my mother brought me in for my first school day I was given a school cone which was filled with homemade cookies to make the new event taste sweeter; it was 1947, shortly after WWII. There were four classes in one room because we just had one teacher, a young woman. I loved school because the world of the adults was opening up for me.
Ali Nesimoglu, author of many books, grew up in Zeytinlik and he went to school when his work as the son of a farmer permitted it, also with four classes in one room; the schoolhouse was the later Ottoman House restaurant; it was the same year as for me. He did not get a school cone.
A right to education has been created and recognized by some jurisdictions: Since 1952, Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights obliges all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education. At the global level, the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under its Article 13.
Education is a topic one could talk forever – and they do so continuously in governments all over the world – with differing results. I told my children education is the key to freedom, here they say: education is the only capital I can give my children, or shortly after the war: my children should have a better life than we had….and ambitious Cypriot Turkish parents ‘tightened their belts’ to be able to pay for school and university fees and sold their crop before it was harvested.
Today we have more highly educated young people but not the jobs to position them in. Cyprus is an island and has a limited number of inhabitants and no industry, so many young people pack their things and move to other countries, leaving their parents behind, although their hearts will go on hurting for Cyprus.
Education has many contradictory sides to it: one is to find out where your talents are and improve them to one day be a valuable member of society, that is the best road; another one is that a profession is chosen which promises a lot of money although the talent is not evident; thus we often have mediocrely qualified people sitting in high positions. Here in North Cyprus and also in Turkey we have many young men studying because they don’t want to do their military service. Why not introduce social service instead, I ask myself.
A huge far more alarming problem has developed in poor countries, when young people, who had the chance to study, often abroad, come back and realize the conditions they have to live under and compare them with what they have seen elsewhere. They stand up with like- minded and, opening the eyes of uninformed citizens, create unrest and demand answers from their governments. Only future will show if the social structure really changes.
Still another side effect of high school education is that some disciplines end up with a surplus of job seeking people; nobody wants to go for skilled crafts anymore, so the old traditional trades die. Everything is computerized and the automation kills the hand crafts because by automation products are cheaper to produce.
What I personally would welcome in the curricula of educational institutions from early age on is a more life-related approach to prepare kids better for life, not just what fun they can get out of it but what must I do to survive. Such training starts in early age. Also to teach respect for each other, learn to observe surroundings and to help each other, especially in family life. We would have a lesser divorce rate and less lonely people. In Kyrenia I have met with a young artist who has established the ARTTERAPI Centre, an institution for children and young adults to overcome their personal problems, to learn co-existence within a group.
While I was writing this column the news came in about the amok run of a young man killing 28 people. As a psychologist was explaining it, such people are preparing their own suicide and want to punish as much people on the way. To find counter measures for such ever increasing disasters we have to go to the bottom of things; it will not help to change the law for the free possession of fire weapons; if these people are determined to kill themselves and others, they will find other weapons. No, there was something wrong in the life of these young people, in their upbringing, nobody had listened to them. Already among friends, in school classes, in the families we must not turn our back on children that are weak, ugly or somehow different, teachers should follow things up, family members should give special attention. General education should also make young people fit to face and accept failures and not to make others responsible for it. And finally, another discipline should be taught before young people are left alone with life. That is a school to learn the ways about partnership and parenthood. Young people get married and have children and they don’t know anything about it, they only know what they have experienced in their own families and that is often not the best example.