Members of the Turkish teachers union, Egitim Sen struck last week against a raft of education 'reform' measures which are further degrading public education in the country. The neoliberal government of Tayyip Erdogan has promoted privatisation as well as failing to employ enough teachers. He is also continuing the attacks on the right of Kurdish speaking children and teachers to work in their own language. The plight of the Kurdish minority in Turkey has long been a campaigning priority for Egitim Sen.

Even though the government had promised to mitigate the discrimination against the Kurdish language, in fact it is still not allowed in public schools. As a result three private Kurdish medium schools were opened and there was a call for a boycott of public schools where Kurdish was not permitted. However one school, named after the Kurdish schoolteacher who was executed in Iran, Farzad Kamangar, was invaded by police with water cannon and closed down. Education activists and teachers argue that denying the right of children to be educated in their own language means that they, "are less able to communicate with their teachers or understand what they were saying. Moreover Kurdish children become more likely to leave school early than their Turkish peers, while those who remain become more likely to develop a disposition toward rejecting their own culture and identity."

Like their Kurdish colleagues, many teachers across Turkey were faced with police repression as they protested last week, with one teacher in the Black Sea area being wounded by a teargas canister and others suffering from the effects of the gas. This treatment is typical of the way in which the Erdogan government deals with dissent, as witnessed by the recent arrest and incarceration of leaders of the teachers union and other public sector unions.