On 05 October 2017, Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, met with Dr Ismet Yılmaz, the Turkish Minister of National Education. The DBE has been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Turkish Ministry of Education since 2013. The proposed Agreement is to facilitate exchanges in terms of education experts as well as sharing knowledge and experience in the area of basic education.
The formal diplomatic relationship between South Africa and Turkey was established in 1992; however, the relationship on various levels predates this by 130 years. South Africa and Turkey are countries with similar developmental patterns and problems; and are able to relate to each other on education, economic and socio-political issues.
In terms of education, an Agreement was signed in 2003 which provided for direct co-operation between the two countries on the exchange of academics and educators in areas of common interest, as well as the exchange of information on education and expertise in order to ensure mutual acquaintance between the two countries on their educational systems. This Agreement expired in 2013. As the co-operation was found to be mutually beneficial, the two countries renewed a process of negotiating a new Agreement in the field of basic education during 2013. The areas of co-operation are curriculum and textbooks; assessments, evaluations and examinations; the continuous training of teachers; special education (for gifted and disabled students); and education inspection, supervision and guidance.
Minister Yilmaz said: “Turkey recently opened a Turkish Cultural Centre, the Yunus Emre Enstitusu, in Johannesburg and the Turkish Government would like to open schools in South Africa. The Turkish Government has signed protocols with 20 African countries and will be hosting a conference of Education Ministers in Istanbul for African Countries from 19 to 21 October 2017. Turkey has made advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and 63 000 schools provide tablets to every learner and have installed smartboards and internet connectivity in every classroom to access the highways of communication”.
Minister Motshekga expressed her opinion that closer co-operation with Turkey in respect of ICT and Digital Technology will prove beneficial: “Operation Phakisa (“phakisa” meaning “hurry up” in Sesotho) advocates for the leveraging of ICT as an enabler for improving the quality, access, equity and redress in basic education. ICT has the possibility to engage learners with resources beyond the traditional classroom, such as access to global information or talented teachers from other learning environments. The Gauteng Province and the Western Cape Province are the most advanced implementers of ICT in schools. However, South Africa’s rural areas are experiencing many challenges. We need to ensure that all our learners and teachers have access to ICT”.
The meeting resolved to bring the negotiation of an MOU to finalisation. The text of the MOU will include co-operation in ICT as well as the establishment of Turkish independent schools in South Africa. Deputy Director-General (DDG) for Planning, Information and Assessment, Mr Paddy Padayachee, Director in the Office of the Minister, Mr Raymond Khala, the Ambassador of Turkey in South Africa, Ms Elif Comoglu Ulgen, the Ambassador for South Africa in Turkey, Mr Tshepo Ranamane and Ms Phozisa Nqadolo from International Relations and Multilateral Affairs Directorate in the DBE, also attended the meeting.