Volunteers lend a hand to needy students in Southeast
“Reading rooms” opened by educational volunteers in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Batman and Van are having increasing success in their efforts to help poor but promising students
Founded five years ago thanks to a cooperative, voluntary effort between businessmen and teachers, reading rooms hope to provide needy students in the poverty-stricken Southeast with extra education outside their homes, which are mostly unsuitable for studying due to crowded families and a lack of supervision.
Prominent Diyarbakır province leads voluntary education activities in the region. The Association of Education and Human Relations (EHİDER) has founded 18 reading rooms and serves hundreds of students, all of whose course materials are provided by EHİDER.
The students going to reading rooms also have the opportunity to catch up with their peers, since they are neither able to take private courses nor attend private tutoring schools due to financial difficulties.
Reading rooms of EHİDER have had 100 percent success in the High School Entrance Examination (OKS) by placing 116 students in Science or Anatolian High Schools.
Abdülaziz Bilgin, for instance, is the first and only student in Diyarbakır’s Dicle district to gain entrance to a Science High School. He comes from a family of eight children. His life has changed since meeting the volunteer teachers who work in the reading room in his district. After he finishes school Abdülaziz now wants to play a role in the future of Turkey.
Rahşan Muğuç, a young girl from Diyarbakır, is also among these successful students. She is the fourth of seven children in her family. Due to poverty, her family shares a house with another family. Her father is a temporary worker and does not have a regular salary. She struggles to continue her education despite difficulties. But in living with her five cousins, six siblings, aunt, uncle, father and mother, Rahşan had trouble finding a space in which to focus.
The course of Rahşan’s life has changed since the day some teachers knocked on her door and said they prepare students for exams without charge. Because she attended the reading room, Rahşan gained entrance to Bursa Anatolian High School and has since been a source of pride for her family. Since her family was not able to take her to Bursa for registration, her teachers from EHİDER went with her instead.
Talip Tezcan, whose child gained entrance to an Anatolian High School, said that reading rooms save the children from the streets. Stating that many pitfalls exist for children living in Diyarbakır, Tezcan said, “If there were no reading rooms, my child would not be able to attend this school. He might even get involved in crime.” Tezcan added that society must support such institutions.
Apart from education, EHİDER also provides the families of students with regular food, clothing and stationery aids, along with health checkups. The businessmen are happy to support these activities.
One such businessman is Aziz Nart, who says, “As a businessman, I cannot see any other kind of solidarity and cooperation better than this.” He emphasizes the notion of “equal opportunities in education.”
“It made us happy to see the students being successful once they were provided with the necessary conditions. I deeply congratulate my educator brothers,” he said.
Mehmet Tekin, a volunteer teacher in Bağlar, said the families are eager to send their children to school once they have the financial opportunity. He added that the number of students going to reading rooms is gradually increasing.
Asaf Baltacı, coordinator of the reading rooms, said the reading rooms began accepting students two years ago based on exams in order to differentiate promising students. This differed from previous years, when they admitted every student. According to Baltacı, 20 teachers work in reading rooms. The number of students who were able to attend Science, Anatolian or Anatolian Teacher Training High Schools increased from 75 in 2007 to 116 in 2008