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In the area of education, the problems faced by children and young people in accessing education in Turkish are in place at every stage from primary and secondary schools to university and beyond. In the last 12 years, more than 60 minority primary schools have been closed, and there are no bilingual kindergartens. Islam is taught in public schools in Greek by religious instructors working for the government-appointed muftis, but students do not learn anything about the history of the Turkish community.
In the district of Komotini, where more than half of the population is Turkish, there is only one minority secondary school out of many public schools. Similarly, in the district of Xanthi, where just under half of the residents are Turkish, there is just one minority secondary school out of dozens of public schools. That means that each year only around 1,000 students graduate from the two available minority secondary schools.
‘They want to lower the level of education of minority schools to force students to choose the public schools,’ says Aydin Ahmet, the chairman of the Western Thrace Turkish Teachers’ Union. ‘The future of the Turkish language here is under threat.’ Indeed, the concern is wider: while the level of Turkish among students at the minority schools is low, so too is the level of Greek. Because of the poor quality of instruction and as a result the graduates’ weak performance in public examinations, there are very few officials in Western Thrace with a minority background.