By Mustapha K Darboe
The first batch of grade six students graduated from a Turkish school in Gambia on Sunday.
The Maarif Foundation opened the school in October 2017.
Currently, 40 students from Kindergarten to grade six study at the school.
The eight students who graduated will attend seventh grade that the school started for the next academic year.
Speaking at a ceremony organized for the students, Turkish Ambassador Ismail Sefa Yuceer said: “This is a special project being supported by the Turkish government… We established this school because we want this school to be an example in Gambia… We want to raise the standards of education in the country.”
“We started this school with 40 students but it will expand this year… We are moving to a bigger place where most likely the students will increase to 200 or 300.”
Yuceer said they are planning to expand the activities of Maarif “not only to higher education but also to university level as Maarif did in other countries”.
The graduation was attended by officials from Gambia’s Education Ministry and the Maarif Foundation team from Senegal led by Dursun Sari.
Maarif Foundation started with a Kindergarten and a primary school teaching in English, Arabic and Turkish languages, said Murat Seras, head of the school.
The students of the school are mainly from Gambia, England, America and Turkey, said Sarjoh Badgie, head teacher at Maarif Foundation.
“We are striving to ensure that our alumni can compete anywhere in the world,” said Badgie.
The participants at the ceremony observed a minute of silence for the martyrs of the coup bid in Turkey.
The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
FETO is reportedly present in more than 150 countries around the world, through schools, NGOs, lobbyists, media outlets, and other companies.
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETO. It also establishes schools and education centers abroad. Dozens of African countries have handed over FETO schools to Maarif or closed them down at Ankara's request.
“Gambia was the first country that shut down a FETO school in the whole of Africa…,” said Yuceer.