15,550 village schools were closed due to the education based on mobile teaching facilities. Huri Aykut Ülker, a ceramic artist, has done art work with more than a thousand children in more than a hundred villages and listened to the stories of the closed down schools. These stories turned into ceramic works titled “Silent Bells” and then they turned into an exhibition.
Fatma Batukan Belge
Ceramic artist Huri Aykut Ülker worked with more than a thousand children in more than a hundred villages in and around Bursa with the “Art is Everywhere” project carried out within the Bursa Culture Art and Tourism Foundation. Meanwhile, she listened to the stories by the children about the schools that were closed down. Later, these stories inspired ceramic works titled “Silent Bells” and then an exhibition.
In the exhibition opened at Nilüfer Municipality Nazım Hikmet Culture Center, Nazım Hikmet Art Gallery, Photos of former Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Kemal Demirel, the works of Huri Aykut Ülker, Arzu Karayel, Canan Temizelli, Gül Seray Artut, İpek Candaş, Nihan Ertürk Dere were taken place. Curator of the exhibition, Huri Aykut Ülker, told the story of “Silent Bells”:
You have been going to the village schools around Bursa for five years and working with children. Have you ever had a hard time?
Even in the harshest weather and road conditions, when I thought about the hearts that were waiting for me with gleaming eyes at the school I was going to, I hit the road. Sometimes my car broke down, sometimes I was stuck in the snow, sometimes I got lost and found the way again. I was scared, but I did not give up. Sometimes my artist friends accompanied me.
How did the “Silent Bells” concept come about? In some villages, empty buildings greeted us. Because children are being moved to other places with a transport system. School bells are muted, so quiet like a silent bell, the school building misses children. There should be no schools without children. A country without a village cannot be in question. Village children go out of the mountains and paths every morning and go to school. They are happy despite all the difficulties. But village schools are closed and continue to be closed. Students are moved to the central schools. With hostels, boarding schools and dormitories, children were separated from their families and their environment of trust.
How many village schools were closed in this process?
The mobile teaching practice resulted in the closure of 15,550 schools. Villages without schools accelerated the migration to cities. Regional boarding schools were opened for those who could not go, but nobody wanted to send their 8-10 year old child to these schools. Thereupon, a weird system was created called the education based on mobile teaching facilities. At the crack of dawn, a minibus hits the road and by driving around the villages, takes the children it collected to a school in a larger village. In the evening, it brings them back. Every morning, tiny children are drifted on dirt country roads. In the past years, more than seventy children died in a traffic accident in this system. The Ministry spends trillions of liras (76.6 trillion this year) every year for the mobile system. There is also a significant rent around this situation. Some village headmen, especially minibus drivers and catering companies, also gains significant earnings. Nobody thinks about the kids! There are children, mothers and fathers who cannot explain their troubles like the silent bells.
In a sense, their voice placed in the ceramic, which gave the exhibition its name…
Representing this situation, which is expressed and reported in numbers, I placed the bells made from ceramics. I wanted to remind that those who are expressed only in numbers by the administrators of all institutions such as ministers, deputies, mukhtars, mayors, governors under the administration of our country, are actually children living in those villages.