We thank FISE and WFTU for inviting us here. We greet all our comrades here with feelings of international solidarity.
We represent the Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Trade Union. We come from Cyprus, but from the north of Cyprus. Our country is currently divided into two. The north of the island is under the control of Turkey. Turkish governments have an extensive influence on our economic and social structures. Therefore, as well as dealing with problems arising from the division of our island, we are also struggling with economic problems that are created by our peculiar economic structure.
A few years ago, in 2008, a law that would restructure all the sectors in the north of the country was introduced. The society fought hard to stop the implementation of this law but they did not succeed. The law has been dubbed as the “emigration law” by the society because it would force the people, especially the youth, to leave the country due to the decreased standard of life. The neoliberal policies of this law envision cuts and austerity measures and they have been implemented in many areas, including health and education.
In terms of education, here are some of the consequences of this law:
- Currently, young teachers who have entered the profession after 2008 are receiving wages that are around 40% less than their colleagues, who started even a day before this law was passed. This is one of the most important consequences of this law since as a result discrimination is being created between people who are doing the same job.
- The pensions and benefits of the teachers are also currently under threat. There are articles within the “emigration law”, which aim to cut down on these rights of workers, who are covered under this law.
- To solve the issue of teacher shortages, which is an existing problem in the north of Cyprus for many years, instead of hiring teachers, the government is merging classrooms to save money.
- Private schools are being encouraged; the profession of teaching is being discredited and teachers are being pulled away from their societal responsibilities.
- More and more teachers are being regarded as technicians and subjects of capitalism and the capitalism-controlled technology.
Due to the heavy economic dependence on Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots are not able to have a great say in where to allocate their money. This year, the money put aside to renovate and maintain 40 schools was one third of the money devoted to one mosque, which is being built in addition to a religious school in the capital of the country. This is a direct influence of the Islamic Turkish government and its policies. Due to the Islamic nature of the Turkish government, we are also forced to slowly integrate more religious aspects into our secular education system.
As KTOS, our main struggle is to gain back the political voice of Turkish Cypriots and to unite our island into one. As Turkish Cypriots, we usually lack the possibilities to make our voices heard in the international arena. It is our aim to make these issues known in the international arena and we hope that FISE will help us in achieving this aim.