In a small school in Diyarbakır, for lack of means, com­put­er lit­er­a­cy is taugh on card­board com­put­ers the chil­dren have pro­duced them­selves. A pho­ny con­tro­ver­sy, or a reveal­ing piece of news?

Français | English

At Şehit Mehmet Aygün Col­lege in Eğil – a town­ship in Diyarbakır, because of lack of mate­r­i­al, the teacher in charge of com­put­er lit­er­a­cy, Orkun Şahin, attempts to famil­iar­ize the chil­dren with the help of com­put­ers they have made by recy­cling dis­card­ed wrappers.

Orkun Şahin spoke to the media about his wish for a real com­put­er lit­er­a­cy class: “In order to com­plete this project, I drew the essen­tial fea­tures of a com­put­er on the board and asked the chil­dren to make a life-sized one at home as best they could, using recu­per­at­ed mate­ri­als. They did so and brought them to class. The aim of this project is to famil­iar­ize the chil­dren with a com­put­er, as best we can. We have no com­put­er room but I want­ed them to sim­u­late the con­di­tion, as if they had a real com­put­er and could gain an appre­ci­a­tion of the subject.”

The teacher says that, despite every­thing, this cre­ative project built a min­i­mal bridge between the chil­dren and tech­nol­o­gy. “At least, they learn how to hold a mouse, how to sit straight in front of the com­put­er.” He insists on the fact the chil­dren dream of learn­ing to use real com­put­ers and to touch them. “There is an unoc­cu­pied room on the low­er floor. We could very well set up a com­put­er room there.” He adds he had pos­i­tive respons­es fol­low­ing this project.

One of the stu­dents, Sev­da Aslan, said friends had loved this project. “I was able to imag­ine how a com­put­er works, which keys serve which func­tion… I see com­put­ers on tele­vi­sion. But I had nev­er touched one.” Suna Malçok felt the same way. “I have nev­er touched a com­put­er. When I made one at home, it made me feel as if I was touch­ing one. It was pleas­ant.” Muhammed Malçok shared the same feel­ing as Suna and added “our teacher is teach­ing us about com­put­ers, with­out a com­put­er. I thank him very much.”

Two days after the pub­li­ca­tion of these tes­ti­mo­ni­als in the media, and the reac­tions that fol­lowed, the Edu­ca­tion Direc­torate in Diyarbakır issued a dec­la­ra­tion call­ing on the teach­ing corps to “request an autho­riza­tion pri­or to mak­ing any dec­la­ra­tion to the media.”

Here is the dec­la­ra­tion pub­lished by the dai­ly Birgün. Edi­fy­ing.

Activ­i­ties and exem­plary prac­tices car­ried out in our province are shared on social net­works from time to time, in order to sen­si­tize and cre­ate emu­la­tion. Teach­ers, school prin­ci­pals or local author­i­ties also make dec­la­ra­tions to writ­ten or audio­vi­su­al media on var­i­ous topics.
How­ev­er, fol­low­ing dec­la­ra­tions done with­out pri­or noti­fi­ca­tion to the author­i­ties con­cerned, and with no pri­or writ­ten request for same, and with the addi­tion of advice and per­son­al opin­ions, neg­a­tive results could pos­si­bly result.
This is the rea­son why, I request that teach­ers and direc­tors of edu­ca­tion­al estab­lish­ments in our province strict­ly request a writ­ten autho­riza­tion pri­or to mak­ing a dec­la­ra­tion to the media or shar­ing infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive events occur­ing in an edu­ca­tion­al set­ting; in order to avoid all kinds of neg­a­tive fall­outs, and show a max­i­mum amount of sen­si­tiv­i­ty con­cern­ing the shar­ing on per­son­al or insti­tu­tion­al accounts on social networks.”

The Birgün shares screen grabs of the dec­la­ra­tion received on What­sapp and signed by the Diyarbakır’s Direc­tor of Nation­al Edu­ca­tion, and adds: “The per­son in charge of nation­al edu­ca­tion in the province of Diyarbakir whom we con­tact­ed for more infor­ma­tion, declared that State employ­ees must request autho­riza­tion before express­ing them­selves in front of the media. After ask­ing us where we obtained the infor­ma­tion about the dec­la­ra­tion, he claimed it had nev­er been written.”

ordinateur turquie

In regime-mind­ed medias, we also read oth­er dec­la­ra­tions by the Direc­torate of nation­al edu­ca­tion in Diyarbakir province: “The school in ques­tion is an estab­lish­ment with 15 class­es. All the class­es are equiped with the lat­est in inter­ac­tive boards used for all top­ics, includ­ing com­put­er lit­er­a­cy. More­over, there are three com­put­ers for admin­is­tra­tive use. The stu­dent project con­sist­ing of mak­ing “com­put­er mod­els” as home­work titled “mak­ing one’s own con­cept of a com­put­er” with recu­per­at­ed mate­ri­als, was com­mu­ni­cat­ed to pub­lic opin­ion, skew­ing stu­dent dec­la­ra­tions and with the alle­ga­tion that “the stu­dents made com­put­ers because there are none at school” which is far from being the truth [?!]. In our school which was the top­ic of this infor­ma­tion, all required mate­r­i­al for edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties exists and there are no shortages.”

As a reminder, on Novem­ber 22 2010, the Turk­ish Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and the Min­istry of Trans­port and Infra­struc­tures launched a project involv­ing all the schools in Turkey. The “Fatih Project” announced it would offer with­in 5 years chil­dren from kinder­garten through High School the “skills for the 21st Cen­tu­ry.” Mean­ing: equip­ing each teacher and each child with a com­put­er or a tablet, and every class with inter­ac­tive boards; thus “cre­at­ing a knowl­edge soci­ety and mak­ing tech­nol­o­gy use­ful for edu­ca­tion­al pur­pos­es”.

The project claims to offer chil­dren the infra­struc­ture of com­put­er mate­r­i­al, hard­ware and soft­ware, includ­ing a com­put­er room for each school, con­nec­tions and suf­fi­cient pow­er sup­plies to meet instal­la­tion needs, net­work­ing, access to the web for every class, inter­ac­tive boards and com­put­ers, along with the train­ing of the teach­ers for con­sci­en­tious, secure and man­age­able com­put­er prac­tices, as well as the use of com­put­ers in the edu­ca­tion­al curricula…

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many of these link-ups are obso­lete, the objects involved, not to men­tion entire media sources that had pub­lished them hav­ing dis­ap­peared, it has been dif­fi­cult to find clear and up-to-date infor­ma­tion on what has tru­ly been accom­plished of this project. Apart from reac­tions to mas­sive buy­ing of tablets, all from the same. [If some­one has more infor­ma­tion, we are takers.]

If this ambi­tious project was giv­en the name “FATİH”, it is not hard to imag­ine that the entire grey mat­ter avail­able in both min­istries was raised to a boil­ing pitch in order to find a name that would pro­duce a glo­ri­ous acronym… Thus was cho­sen the fol­low­ing Fır­sat­ları Art­tır­ma ve Teknolo­jiyi İyi­leştirme Hareketi Pro­je­si” which trans­lates into some­thing like “The pro­ject­ed move­ment to increase the oppor­tu­ni­ties and the tech­nol­o­gy”

In fact, in his speech launch­ing the project, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said: “Where­as Fatih Sul­tan Mehmet put an end to the Mid­dle Ages and began a new era with the con­quest of Istan­bul in 1453, with the FATIH project today we have put an end to a dark age in edu­ca­tion and begun a new era, an era of infor­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies in Turk­ish education.”

You must under­stand him… For the whole world, the Mid­dle Ages end­ed with “the decline of the Roman Empire”, how­ev­er in Turk­ish schools, you learn that it was the con­quest of Istan­bul by Mehmet II that put an end to the MiddleAges.

The dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tion for the word “fatih” is “con­queror” but also, as with all projects – it also describes the mega­lo­ma­nia of the cur­rent regime, ful­fill­ing Ottoman oblig­a­tions in the blink of an eye. There­fore this is a project to con­quer the dig­i­tal frac­ture, or a tech­no­log­i­cal act of faith… Or it was, that is, as it was sup­posed to end in 2015. East­ern Turkey seems to have elud­ed dig­i­tal con­quest, per­haps because of it’s being sub­ject­ed to per­ma­nent con­quest of a mil­i­tary nature.

Look­ing at the pho­tos, anoth­er reflec­tion comes to mind… Card­board com­put­ers are a blot in the midst of the Fatih project, ongo­ing for 9 years. Yet anoth­er image jumps out at you : see­ing in Turkey “a coun­try envied by the entire plan­et” stu­dents in class, wear­ing their win­ter coats…

ordinateur computers

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.