Schools a new tool of Turkish influence in Albania

The Maarif Foundation, a tool of Turkish President Erdogan, is expanding its presence in Albania and not everyone is pleased

Today, the Maarif Foundation boasts a presence in 35 countries with a total of 294 educational institutions,  the majority in South Asia, Africa and Southeast Europe.

A major tool in Turkish soft-power diplomacy, the Foundation is also a weapon in Erdogan’s battle to dismantle the worldwide network of educational institutions of his arch-enemy and the man Ankara says was behind a failed 2016 coup, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Maarif bought NYUT in August 2018, while alongside acquiring the NY Basic Education School and NY High School in Tirana.

To celebrate the acquisition, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu delivered a speech at the opening of the NYUT academic year. 

But the Foundation did not stop there.

Political tool

In June, Maarif announced the creation of ‘Farm Kindergarten Albania’, a kindergarten on 2000 square metres of farmland in a Tirana suburb offering “real outdoor learning”.

Then in July, it announced the creation of a high school in the central Albanian city of Elbasan that is due to open in September.

Critics, however, say the expansion is less about education than politics, about reining in Gulen and burnishing the image of Erdogan abroad.

“More than educational intervention, Maarif is political,” said Ermir Hoxha, an Albanian journalist who closely follows developments in Turkey and is the publisher behind the Te Sheshi news portal.

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