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Education

Zekeriya Ersoy

Zekeriya Ersoy Makes Education Accessible to Village Children

On 30 December 2010, Sabancı Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Zekeriya Ersoy, who aims to alter the future of children by making education accessible to all in Southeastern Turkey.

When Zekeriya Ersoy was appointed to the district of Derik's Pirinçliköy village in Mardin province in 2000 as a teacher, there was neither a school to teach nor a residence for him and his fellow teachers. Derik consisted of seven villages and 17 small farms. Approximately 1.000 children could not go to school.

Turkey has experienced fundamental changes in education in the past 13 years. The first significant change was executing 1997 reforms that called for eight years of continuous, compulsory education. Implementing the reform was not a smooth process; policymakers at first did not provide extensive support to make the process more effective. As a result, the lack of infrastructure, classrooms, teachers, and parents' willingness had taken its toll, particularly in the villages. Ersoy's story is one that revolves around trying to implement the eight-year compulsory education reform more effectively. When he came to the village, Ersoy initially tried to convince families to send their children to a nearby boarding school. When he saw that the children were having difficulty adjusting, Ersoy convinced the villagers to transform the local police residence building into a school. When the village finally had a school of its own, villagers provided their vehicles and contributed as school bus drivers to bring children from surrounding villages to the school.

In 2000, Ersoy and the villagers began laying bricks with 60 students. By 2010, the building had grown into an education hub with nine classrooms, 914 students and transportation services to the surrounding villages. Even this wasn't enough for Ersoy. In order to not leave one illiterate person in the region, he began to implement the "Catch-up Education Program" designed by the Ministry of National Education. Establishing a classroom for children and youth who had dropped out, he convinced their families and brought students of all ages back to school. Students taking the accelerated course were assigned to a new class according to their level of knowledge to catch up with their peers. As a result, those seven villages and 10 small farms saw an enrollment ratio 100 percent.

Ersoy put up a fight to make eight years of compulsory education accessible to everyone in the Southeast. Just as the sun rising in the East, he shined and brought hope to the children of remote villages in Southeastern Turkey. After several years of work and struggles, he altered the region's seemingly unalterable fate.

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