Inauguration of the first directorship of the Turkish Maarif Foundation in South Africa will be held today with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in attendance. As part of his four-day visit to the continent, the president traveled to the South African capital of Johannesburg to attend the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit yesterday upon invitation to the two-day long event; he is also expected to pay an official visit to Zambia on July 28. In South Africa, there are 11 schools of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) with a total of 2,800 students.
The aim of the foundation is to eventually take over these schools from the terrorist organization, just as it did in 28 other countries.
Currently, Turkey's Maarif Foundation, which is responsible for Turkey's education activities abroad in coordination with the Education Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry, is running operations to take over FETÖ-linked schools in African countries. Since its establishment, the foundation has made official contact with 90 countries, appointed directors to 40 countries so far and currently runs 101 schools. In a total of 12 countries, including Niger, Chad, Somalia and Sudan, 94 schools with more than 10,000 students have been transferred to the Maarif Foundation from the FETÖ schools with the help of the governments of those countries.
South Africa and Zambia are expected to be the next countries that collaborate with Turkey and Turkey's Maarif Foundation in the fight against FETÖ and their activities in the continent. In total, 80 percent of Maarif's 12,000 students are from Africa. The latest transfer of schools was made in Congo through the cooperation between the two countries' governments. Estimated at its peak to be worth $25 billion in 2012, FETÖ was considered an economic powerhouse enjoying support from its transnational network of trading companies and businesses.
A key element of this vast economic network is the school system operated by the group in the U.S., Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia - virtually everywhere on Earth. The commercial and financial structuring of FETÖ has focused on building schools in African countries.
By promising free education for the children of the political elite, high-ranking military officials and bureaucrats, FETÖ tried to gain access to significant and high-level positions in the countries. Thereby, they hoped to establish a network of high-profile individuals.
The number of FETÖ-affiliated schools in 35 African countries is estimated to have exceeded 100 prior to the take over of some of them by the Turkish Maarif Foundation. The first school in Africa opened in Tangier in 1994.
The first one in sub-Saharan Africa appeared in Senegal in 1997, followed by schools a year later in Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria.