HIZMET MOVEMENT SCHOOL PRINCIPALS’ PERCEPTION OF TOLERANCE AND ITS IMPACT ON TOLERANCE EDUCATION PRACTICES IN SOUTH AFRICAN HIZMET SCHOOLS

A. Cetin, C. Smith

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
Tolerance is one of the most important values that needs to be nurtured in South Africa's contemporary multicultural and diverse society. Schools are at the epicentre of teaching tolerance. School’s established by the Hizmet Movement (Hizmet means “Service” in Turkish), inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gülen – a Turkish Islamic scholar and educational activist – are internationally acclaimed for their propagation of tolerance, peace, dialogue and social cohesion.

School leadership has a significant role to play in tolerance education, by providing a vision, leading by example and through active participation. For this reason, it is crucial for principals to understand the notion of tolerance. The aim of this research, therefore, was to explore Hizmet school principals’ perceptions of tolerance in their tolerance education practices in South African Hizmet schools.

A qualitative research approach was employed. The eight Hizmet Movement affiliated schools in South Africa, known as Star Colleges, were selected to participate in the study. Focus group interviews and semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with the principals of the eight schools. Qualitative content analysis procedures were used to analyse the data.

The findings of this study reveal that the Hizmet school principals' perceptions of tolerance are shaped by the thoughts, teachings and practices of Fethullah Gülen. These perceptions can be summarised in two complementary sentences. Firstly, they view tolerance as the essence of loving creation, based on the notion that everything comes from the Creator. The second is based on the principle of having a place for everyone in one’s heart.

This study contributes to the limited research on tolerance education in South African schools. It also provides the first known scholarly study on Hizmet Movement schools in South Africa.