Islamabad - The future of thousands of students studying in Pak-Turk Schools has plunged into uncertainty as Pakistan has decided to close down institutions run by Fethullah Gulen, the US-based religious leader who is accused of masterminding and backing the botched recent coup attempt in Turkey.

According to an official, Pakistan has decided in principle to not allow present management to run or own the educational chain. “Turkey has asked in a careful manner and we are considering all options, but takeover of the schools by Turk government is out of question,” a top official told this scribe, requesting anonymity.

However, he said the Turkish government may authorise some company to take over the schools in the country. He said other options could be forming a committee to look after the affairs of the institution or the federal government may ask provinces to look into the matters of the organisation.

The decision of change of management has come after the Turkish Ambassador to Pakistan asked Pakistani authorities to shut down all Pak-Turk schools, and some other offices as Turkey has solid evidence of the involvement of Fethullah Gulen and his organisation in the failed coup attempt.

Operating since 1995, Pak-Turk schools have a network of 28 schools and colleges in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur and Jamshoro. It has strength of 1,500 teachers who teach around 10,000 students from pre-school to A level. Although expensive, these schools have earned a reputation of parting good quality education, over the years.

Thousands of students and their parents have been going through severe mental stress after the Turkish government’s demand.

“Half of the educational year is over. If the school is closed where we will go? My kids may end up wasting precious one educational year,” Zulfiqar Ahmed, a parent said.

Some believe that closing educational institutions in Pakistan over any incident of political motives could be harmful.

“Education and politics should not be mixed. Turkey has seen a tough time recently but here we are talking about future of thousands of students,” said Ajmal Malik, another parent.

According to official data, Pakistan spends 2.4 percent GDP on education. At national level, 89 percent education expenditure comprise of current expenses such as teachers’ salaries, while only 11 percent comprises of development expenditure which is not sufficient to raise quality of education. No wonder, middle class rely on private schools to get quality education for their kids.

Inevitably, the announcement of possible closure has affected the students most.

“I cannot concentrate on my studies, I keep on worrying about what will happen, will I would have to go to some new school, the idea of going to some other school at middle of year, is horrifying,” said Zoya, a student.

Many students believe if the management is changed or schools are shut down, it would great hurt them academically. I have been studying here from last ten years. Moving to new school is not only new environment but also teaching methods and syllabus, any change will obviously damage students,” said Zoya.

According to psychiatrists, uncertainty about educational institute or change could badly affect performance of the students.

“Uncertainty causes anxiety, insecurity worry, and different phobias among students and parents as well,” said Dr Rizwan Taj, head of Psychiatry Department, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

He said Turk-School has been doing very well and they have a special education system, different from traditional systems and shutting them will result in a vacuum.

Despite the lingering uncertainty, officials are confident that government will decide in best interest of parents and students.

“We have a close relationship with Turkey. We could have decided when Turkey asked us but we are weighing every option and their fallouts very carefully,” a senior official said. “Safeguarding interest of students and parents while making any decision would be the government’s top priority.”

Answering a question about timeframe, the official said the transition will be completed in next couple of months, if no legal hitch arises.

A memorandum of understanding with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), in 1999, placed the Pak Turk International Schools and Colleges under the auspices of the Pak Turk International Educational Foundation (Pak Turk ICEF), an international Turkish non-government organization.

On their part, the management of Pak-Turk schools has tried to distance itself from the post-coup attempt controversy.

“We are deeply concerned by allegations made by a certain section in the social media trying to connect the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan with Mr. Fethullah Gülen or the political movement ascribed to him in wake of the recent unfortunate and reprehensible events in Turkey,” read a statement by the management.  “We do unequivocally clarify that the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan have no affiliation or connection with any political individual or any movement or organization, whether political, religious or denominational, nor do we have a financial relationship with any movement.”