Inequalities in Education

Inequalities in Education

Beril Buse Durdurak

Istanbul Bilgi University


The paper firstly starts with personal observations then reviews inequalities in education in Turkey and making comparisons among all countries and making solid with graphs. To support the statements , there is an interview with classmates ; Ezgi Bingül , Emrecan Topaloğlu and Berivan Kızılocak and a lecturer from Nişantaşı Işık high school Erkut Deral. This paper provides a closer look on inequalities in education focusing on opportunity , gender , race and regions. This paper specifies the current and the previous situation of Turkey year by year. This paper will cover Bourdon’s Education , Opportunity and Social Inequality , child labour , Turkey’s ranking according to OECD , obstacles in front of education which are ; mother tongue , income and gender discrimination , number of universities , students , lecturers based on provinces , student/teacher ratios based on ragions , literacy rate , enrollment in primary and secondary school , comparisons between state and private schools based on the numbers of the equipments , desks and teachers. In addition to these , this paper takes a glance at illiteracy rate among black population and in India. Moreover , the paper specifies Child Labor in Cote d’Ivoir. As a conclusion , Turkey’s situation is still embarrassing according to data collected by MEB’s , Turkish Statistical Institute’s and OECD’s statics.

Nothing But Identical

As Plato states ; “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.” (Republic , Book IV.) Your education is your entire future. The path you will lead till the end of your life. The path that may bring you an eternity , an eternity that will make you eternal. As Jean Paul Sartre asserts we are nothing but our choices and each of us are destined to death. The fear of this reality is like a shadow between us whether there is a sun to show it or not and to give a meaning to this meaningless life , we would like to make ourselves eternal in this world by bringing a signature , a signature that will make us as if we are not dead. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther devoted their life for equality. They could live a simple life , they could eat the meal that was served by the others , they could pretend as if they were blind to see the reality , the reality of inequality and savagery but they did not. They educated themselves and tried their best to serve their greatest meal they could cook.

As Socrates indicates ; “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Education is inevitable as to survive and not to be manipulated. You start learning as soon as you are thrown to this world. First , you learn for surviving. You learn not to touch the fire as it will hurt you. Then , you go to schools. There , you learn for earning money and keeping up with the world for the most people’s point of view but indeed , that’s not the initial reason. You learn to create your own reality. You learn to put away the curtains in front of eyes which will save you from blindness and which would give an end to inequalities. Thus , if education is that much important , important for abandoning inequalities , how can we let inequalities in education ? Seeing the real picture is the most significant right for each of us. How can we let this happen? How can we learn we are all nothing but identical who share breathing in the same earth by seeing inequalities in the initial place we learn to share , to see unity , to feel what is helping ? We created and invented plenty of glorious things , we built a life which is our own production but still , we are as ignorant as the first mankind owing to not being able to exceed inequalities , not being aware of the fact that we live in the same boat and without any of us , life would not be a life for each of us but an entire nightmare.  Why cant we pass over our selfishness and make this world a total utopia? We show those inequalities in the news , we live moment by moment those inequalities but still it goes on and on. There is no slavery officially but in fact , there is still slavery. There has been a hierarchy since we are born but none of us could make an end to it. We could not make life itself a fairy tale in which good wins every time. However , the point is , we are the pioneers of those fairy tales and utopias and if we can imagine something , then we are able to do it so , what’s the point for letting this nightmare continue?

Why my peers has to work on the streets by selling handkerchiefs but not going to schools? Why my peers has to walk 5 km in the middle of the winter with plastic slippers to reach their school (if you can call those “schools”)? Why little children in India has to spend their whole life time on a street which is full of dirt 1 meter in width by sewing earning one dollar in a week? Those who had qualified education are at the top of the hierarchy knowing how to manipulate the ignorance and those who had no chance to have qualified education are the ones who work in cocoa farms for upper classes to drink coffee by being ill and exhausted. Only real education and qualified questioning can “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!” as Bob Marley says.
An Interview with a lecturer , Erkut Deral , from my old high school Nişantaşı Işık:

Education can not be based on personal effort”

Erkut Deral , who was my philosophy, sociology and psychology teacher and personally my idol was the first and the last person I could consult as his view , knowledge and experiences are crucial for seeing the reality. I only asked him one question ; “ As an individual who experienced being a teacher in a state school and high school and a student in a state school , what would you say , what are the differences ?” and he went on without a pause ; “ There is no similarity between a state and a high school in Turkey , they are totally different. State schools are swamps , apparently they seem to educate students but indeed , they do not. All conditions are restricted. The education is mostly based on religious virtues which is a total disaster. The system is equal to the regions like Africa. I’ve been teaching for 22 years and I quit my job in state school as soon as possible as the other teachers do when they go to the east regions. There is currently illiterate students who literally and legally are graduated from high schools. The mass of ignorant people are for voting , sheep to pursue the shepherd. They are creating those ignorant mass for turning them into voting machines and fix this system is impossible as it’s too expensive and the government is not willing so. There has to be a revolution in education just like Finland did ; destroying the current system and creating the best.  In the east regions , there are no suitable working conditions for teachers , they are the most primitive ones. Thus , they try to escape from there as soon as possible as I did once and the government does not force them to stay.  They are not educating people legally. It is accepting the despair and trying to make a balance. Parents can mention about their children as ;” He does not like reading , he does not like educating.” as if it is like a hobby or something. Education can not be a choice but obligation.  Once upon a time when I was a student , there was village institutions and the teacher who works in those institutions were the people at the top. Then , they were banned as they were raising communists. Now , Imams are the ones who lead the village. We were not learning religion during the school times. It was a private thing but now it’s obligatory.

The system in Turkey is really mass compared to other countries. It is full of theorical issues based on memorizing but in other countries it’s mostly based on questioning and giving the basic information about positive sciences.

I wanted to be an intellectual , nobody forced me to be , it was my wish but as I said , education can not be a choice.”

An Interview with classmates and self-observations:

I asked three of my classmates who are Emrecan Topaloglu , Berivan Kizilocak and Ezgi Bingul what were the differences they observed through their experiences in their state high schools and they generally gave the common answers ; “ Inadequacy of English classes and labs, our teacher who supposed to teach us German , did not show up in the 10th grade and taught us nothing but just to say our names , ages and nationalities in the following years. Even the stoves were not working. Mostly their general director in their schools were religion teachers and saying ; “Namaz is obligatory.” Ezgi says ; “ They are supposed to tell us religions but instead they were forcing us mentally.” As they assert , they had no sport saloon , no equipment in art classes , they were sharing one desk with 2 , their lesson section were less , mine was 8 and their was 6 , teachers were barely coming to lessons , they could pass the lesson by bribe , activities were restricted , the hierarchy in social status was obvious.

However , in my high school , our lectures were in English except geography and history. The system was not based on mass education or memorizing , it was purely about critical thinking. Each year , our school arranged at least 10 times travelling to abroad. We were able to get TOEFL or IELTS as the English classes were really qualified. In 9th grade we read the original version of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare so , we were able to read and write in old English as well. In 12th grade we were able to read Goethe’s Faust in German and able to pass A2 and B1 proficiency exams. We were doing our lessons on books but next generation was to follow the lessons from their Ipads and so do the teachers. We were at most 20 students in each class but my sister , when she went to state school from first grade to 5th , the number of the students were 92 in her class and she says I could not count or write till the end of the 4th class. When she changed her school and went to a college , she was doing great with all classes including German and English. Our religion teacher would tell us all religions at the same time to see a whole picture but not forcing , again making us to question “Why?” and none of us who were not believing was punished or insulted for it. I guess my school was a rebellion against the current system which creates the inequalities obvious. When I went to “Dershane” which is based on preparing the students for the university entrance exam as a reinforcement , there were plenty of students who came from state schools and a few who were from private. Till that day , I realized that I was with same people from same status and never realized that opportunity could make such a difference. I tried to become friends with them and I became aware of the fact that ; they did not know nothing. My world was completely different from them. The only issue I could share with them was the coming exam , that’s all. Owing to my parents’ acquisition , I became an intellectual not due to my intelligence or any other thing but money and this hurt me really deeply that’s why I chose this subject , I chose it to make people hear my voice of rebellion against any inequality but firstly ; education.

Center For Demography and Ecology

The University of Wisconsin – Madison

On Boudon’s Model of Social Mobility

Robert M. Hauser

Working Paper 75-12

According to Boudon (n.d) An individual cannot create a job just because he wants it but he can go to college if he wants to , provided he is qualified!” (p.21) and in my opinion it explains the whole picture.

We need uneducated people to do dirty and small issues like farming , cleaning the streets or maids who bring you tea while you work on your important upcoming case. As you are “precious” , you can not waste time by making yourself a cup of tea. In the essay of Robert M. Hauser this passage explains it more clearly ; “Another outcome of the process is pressure on middle class youth to stay in school longer , so they can continue to compete for high status jobs. This explains why middle class youth have higher aspiration than lower class youth , and it leads to a temporal spiral of ascending aspirations and attainments.”(p.g 2)

Thus ; socioeconomic background + school achievement affect ; aspiration + curriculum placement + college attendance. If you are not successful , then you would not have aspiration. If you are coming from a poor family , then you would lose your hope of a peaceful future. You would not go to school , not study and for the people who work hard and have money , the curriculum would be perfect but for those who have no aspiration and financial situation , the curriculum would be inadequate.
As a result ; social background academic achievement

educational outcomes

Boudon further states ; “ Inequality of educational opportunity is inevıtable so long as societies are strafied or have differentiated school systems.” (p.g 113)

Comparison between state and private schools based on the numbers of the equipments , desks and teachers:

(Numbers are collected from MEB’s official site)

Ceyhan Anatolian High School , Adana ; Number of Desks:22 Numbers of Teachers : 32 Numbers of Students : 532

Altınözü Anatolian High School , Hatay ; Number of Desks :10 Numbers of Teachers: 25 Numbers of Students : 507

Akşehir Selçuklu Anatolian High School , Konya ; Number of Desks :61 Numbers of Teachers : 58 Numbers of Students : 1055

Baykan Anatolian High School , Siirt ; Number of Desks :16 Numbers of Teachers : 30 Number of Students : 418

Lice Anatolian High School , Diyarbakır ; Number of Desks : 8 Number of Teachers: 15 Number of Students : 250

Cizre Merkez Anatolian High School , Şırnak ; Number of Desks : 32 Number of Teachers : 80 Number of Students : 2469

Boyabat Şehit Ersoy Gürsu Anatolian High School , Sinop ; Number of Desks : 24 Number of Teachers : 22 Number of Students : 376

Yıldırım Beyazıt Anatolian High School , Ankara ; Number of Desks : 37 Number of Teachers : 55 Number of Students : 807 Number of laboratories : 2 Studio for Arts : 0 Computer Rooms : 1

Aliağa Barboros Anatolian High School , İzmir ; Number of Desks : 21 Number of Teachers : 34 Number of Students : 533

Kabataş Erkek Anatolian High School , İstanbul ; Number of Desks : 30 Number of Teachers :67 Number of Students : 847

Kadkıköy Anatolian High School , İstanbul ; Number of Desks : 50 Number of Teachers : 96 Number of Students : 1465
These are a few examples. In their whole primary school life , students study really hard to be accepted to those above schools and the result for their afford is quite dissapointing. In MEB’s offical pages , they did not put the numbers of desks , teachers and students for private schools but I can say an approximate number for my own high school , we were like 250 students and had just for the English department at least 10 teachers , more than the half were American , Irish and English , 20 students in a class at most , sport saloons with pools , conference and cinema saloons , one floor that is separated just for labs and many of my teachers made their Doctorals. If my parents could not afford the tuition fees , I would be one of those students above.

However in Germany , you can barely find private schools , hospitals etc. They are all free for everyone with the same qualifications so , students would go to schools which are the nearest ones to their homes. In Turkey , a new law had upcame. Students must go to the schools which are the nearest ones. They may be Imam Hatibs in which education is based on religion and first and foremost the qualifications among schools in Turkey is enourmous. Thus , the gap will grow faster from now on.
Inequalities In Turkey

A General Look at Permanent Inequalities

June 2010

Bosphorus University – Social Politics Form

Açık Toplum Foundation
Yrd. Doç. Dr. Ayşen Candaş

Prof. Dr. Ayşe Buğra

Volkan Yılmaz
Sevda Günseli
Dr. Burcu Yakut Çakar

Inequalities in Education in Turkey , Pages 104-142

The Level of Education and Enrollment :

According to OECD , the approximate years that a student goes to school is 6 , in Greece it is 10 and in Germany it is 13. Thus , Turkey is nearly at the bottom of the list.

Enrollment in Primary and Secondary School :

As for the statics made by MEB 2009-2010, %2 of children are still can not attend primary schools and it leads a big inequality issue. According to research ; since 1997-1998 to 2009-2010 the enrollment ratio in primary school for girls increased 19 points. It is again pleasing but not enough as the %2 still illiterate and enrollment ratios are not enough as we have to look at graduate ratios.

In 2009-2010 the net ratio for secondary schools are ; %65,5 (boys) and %62 (girls). This ratio leads us to question the gender discriminartion between girls and boy.

Source : MEB, 2010, Millî Eğitim İstatistikleri, Örgün Eğitim 2009-2010, p.g1

Leaving the School , p.g 114 :

According to the research named Türkiye’de İlkoğretim Okullarında Okulu Terk ve İzlenmesi ile Önlenmesine Yönelik Politikalar made by Anne Çocuk Eğitim Vakfı (AÇEV), Kadın Adayları Destekleme ve Eğitme Derneği (KADER) ve Eğitim Reformu Girişimi (ERG) , between 1999-2005 there are 436.614 children who left the primary school and the reasons were they had to work (%30) , their parents did not let them to go (%23) , they could not afford the tuition fees (%20) and more than half the boys were contributing to income. %83,5 of the mother of those children had had no education in their entire lives. % 51,9 of the children , who left school during secondary school years , speaks another language at home. All of those ratios show us that those families from low class with low level of education , lack of benefit primary , were exposed to cultural and social inequalities. In other words , all of them live in poverty. The ratio for leaving secondary schools are quite more than primary school ratios as secondary school education is not obligatory.

Obstacles in front of Education p.g 121:


According to the datas from 2003, %20 of who earns the most are at least graduated from high school and %20 who earns the least the ratio decreases to %5 who graduated from high school and families who can provide one of their children’s education prefer to afford the tuition fees of the boy instead of the gir and this leads us to the fact that there is still a perception of “The girl must stay at home , she does not need education.”

Gender Discrimination p.g123-124

In recent years , there is an increase in the enrollment of girls but for the secondary school ratios , the problems of gender discrimination show itself again. As I stated in the previous paragraph , if the family can afford one their children’s educational fees , they choose the boy and the girl stays at home , helping the mother and taking care of her brother and sisters.In addition , if parent’s educational level is low , then they are more likely to think boys are superior. According to the research “Eğitim Reformu Girişimi’nin Eğitimde Eşitlik “ , it indicates ; “ In a family with an annual benefit of 5000 TL, father graduated from primary school and an illeterate mother , the ratio for a girl to go to secondary school is approximately %1.

Child Labour in Turkey by Graphics :

United States Department of Labor , Moderate Advancement”

According to the research ;

Girls are trafficked into Turkey primarily from ex-Soviet countries for commercial sexual exploitation.

There are also reports that children are recruited by Kurdish militant groups that have been fighting in Turkey for nearly three decades.

The Syrian Conflict has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees relocating to Turkey, some in government camps principally along the southern border and some moving into urban areas throughout Turkey. Due to their high level of vulnerability, some refugee children in urban areas are subject to a range of abuses including child labor, sexual exploitation, and trafficking. Some reports indicate that Syrian girls are sold into marriages.

International Labour Organization ; Facts and Figures :

  • Global number of children in child labour has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work (down from 171 million in 2000).
  • Asia and the Pacific still has the largest numbers (almost 78 million or 9.3% of child population), but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21%).
  • There are 13 million (8.8%) of children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East and North Africa there are 9.2 million (8.4%).
  • Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found (98 million, or 59%), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.
  • Child labour among girls fell by 40% since 2000, compared to 25% for boys.
  • Extreme Forms of Child Labour in Turkey

  • Serdar M. Degirmencioglu, Hakan Acar and Yüksel Baykara Acar

P.K. 18, Goztepe, Istanbul, Turkey

By the mid-1990s, almost one of ten children were working. More specifically, the 1994 Child Labour Survey indicated that of the 11.9 million children between six and 14 years of age, 1.07 million were working (Duyan, 2005).

44.7% of employed children engaged in agricultural sector

44.7% (399 thousand persons) of total employed children engaged in agricultural sector, 24.3% (217 thousand persons) of children engaged in industry and 31% (277 thousand persons) of children engaged in services. Employment in agriculture increased by 8.1 percentage point while that of industry decreased by 6.6 percentage point and services decreased by 1.5 percentage point compared to the results of the 2006.

52.6% (470 thousand persons) of total employed children worked as regular or casual employee, 46.2% (413 thousand persons) of total employed children worked as unpaid family worker.

The research made by Eğitim Sen , Seasonal Agricultural Children Laborers ,2007 :

In Diyarbakır, Batman, Adana, Adıyaman, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep currently there are 23,683

children laborers in seasonal agriculture and they are not able to go 70 days in a year and 70 days in a year is an enourmous number as it wil cause to decrease the qualification of the education and making them disadvantaged from the first row.

Mother Tongue in Education:

Children who can not speak Turkish properly confront a disadvantage when they enter the school ; everything is in Turkish. Thus , it leads them to fail in their lessons.

In addition to those facts as for the research (p.g 134) , it asserts that Roman children are disadvantaged compared to Turkish childre. In the research of Uluslararası Azınlık Hakları Grubu , it states that owing to their poverty , children leave their schools to contribute to the house income. Moreover , obligatory religion lessons are another fact for inequalities in education. The education is mostly based on Sunni perceptions so , it creates an inequality for Alaouites and citizens who are Cristians and Jews confront same difficulties as well. Furthermore , there inequalities for disable people as well. According to Türkiye Özürlüler Araştırması , in 2002 the total illiterate percentage was 12,9 and for disabled citizens it was 36,3. %84,2 graduated from primary school , left during the primary school or never went to school in their entire life times.Besides , the research also adds that (p.g 136) in school books there are discriminative expressions for the people whose ethnic roots are Kurdish , Circassian , Laz , Alaouite , Armenian , Rum , Syrian and Arab and also discriminative expressions about gender.

Fact Sheet: Outcomes for Young, Black Men

–  54% of African Americans graduate from high school, compared to more than three quarters of white

and Asian students.

–  Nationally, African American male students in grades K-12 were nearly 2½ times as likely to be suspended from school in 2000 as white students.

–  In 2007, nearly 6.2 million young people were high school dropouts. Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.

–  On average, African American twelfth-grade students read at the same level as white

eighth-grade students.

–  The twelfth-grade reading scores of African American males were significantly lower than

those for men and women across every other racial and ethnic group.

–  Only 14% of African American eighth graders score at or above the proficient level. These results reveal that millions of young people cannot understand or evaluate text, provide relevant details, or support inferences about the written documents they read.

Literacy Facts and Stats

A great number of children and adults struggle with reading.

Thirty-three percent of 4th grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” level on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests. Twenty-six percent of 8th grade public school students performed at or below the “Basic” level on the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2009).

Among 4th graders, 53 percent of African American students, 52 percent of Hispanic students, and 48 percent of American Indian students scored below the “Basic” level on the NAEP reading test. Among 8th graders, 44 percent of African American students, 41 percent of Hispanic students, and 37 percent of American Indian students scored below the “Basic” level on the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2009).

Forty-nine percent of 4th graders eligible for free and reduced-price meals finished below “Basic” on the NAEP reading test. Forty percent of 8th graders eligible for free and reduced-price meals scored below “Basic” on the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2009).

The number of high school seniors who read at or above “Proficient” has been declining since 1992, according to the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2002).

Literacy and Life Outcomes

Fewer than half of African American men graduate from high school (Editorial Projects in Education, 2008).

African American men make up only 5% of the college population, yet they make up 40% of the prison population (Lewis, S. et al., 2010; West, H.C., 2009).

The unemployment rate is twice as high for African American men as it is for White men (Lewis, S. et al., 2010; West, H.C., 2009).

African American adolescents and young adults are 8 times more likely to be victims of homicide than White people in the same age group (U.S. Bureau of Labor, 2010).

Chocolate and Slavery:

Child Labor in Cote d’Ivoire

TED Case Studies

Number 664, 2002

by Samlanchith Chanthavong

Human Trafficking and Slavery in General

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly defined human trafficking as “the illegal and clandestine movement of persons across national and international borders. . . With the end goal of forcing women and children into. . .Economically oppressive and exploitative situations for profit…”(UNICEF). Although most people may not be aware that in the 21st century slavery still exists, reports declare that the number of slaves at present is the highest it has ever been (Free the Slaves). Presently, about 700,000 children and women are trafficked around the world annually. The UN says that profits for this trafficking amount to approximately $7 billion a year (Anti-Slavery International).

Slavery, the Cote d’Ivoire, and the Rest of West Africa

A UNICEF study reports that 200,000 children are trafficked yearly in West and Central Africa. The trafficking occurs across many countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana. Some countries are mere transit points, while others are either the suppliers or receivers of the children (Salah, p. 3).

Conclusion :

Education is the unique way of abolishing hierarchy. Goverment’s due is to facilitate the acces to education and prohibiting the convection of inequalities to next generations. The public must provide an egalitarian and liberal environment by removing issues like ethnic , socio-economic , gender  and mother tongue. With the question of to what extent the public is successfull in raising equal and free individuals numbers are obtained and observed and as a result ; the average year is 6 in Turkey going to school  , between 1997-2007 literacy rate increased about 3,7 points , enrollment in pre-school ratios went up from %13 to %20 between 2005-2010 , enrollment in primary school ratios went up more than 13 points (for girls only it’s 19 points) , nonattendance ratios which are mora than 20 days went up from 3,2 (2008-2009 to 4,3 (2009-2010) , %6 of the children who are supposed to go to primary school are not able to graduate from a primary school , enrollment in secondary school ratio went up 27 points between 1997-2010 , enrollment ratios among OECD countries between 15-19 ages Turkey is at the bottom , girls stay behind 5 points compared to boys enrollment in secondary school , South-eastern Anatolia is at the worst situation which is below the average enrollment in primary school ratios in Turkey , just in Diyarbakır, Batman, Adana, Adıyaman, Şanlıurfa and  Gaziantep there are 23,683 seasonal agricultural child labourer , the worst regions in success in education are the South-eastern and East Anatolia , mother tongue , ethnic roots , religions are the discriminative facts in education and public’s educational expense for education is 2,9 in 2006 and it’s again the worst among OECD countries.

During the course of Human Nature 103 , we were asked a question ; “ Is there a human nature or not?” I was at the side who said “No” to this . Before that , I believed in the idea of we are nothing but cruel and selfish and this life has no meaning but at the moment , I realized that I was discriminating mankind by saying “We are selfish.”. If we believe in it , life will continue as a chaos with it’s inequalities. If we accept this , then inequalities would be inevitable. However , if only we could see ourselves as identicals , then there would be no sorrows or tears. Indeed , the point is to be aware of equality at first. We do need each other. We do need love. If we can undertand this reality , then there would be no inequalities. That’s the soulution. I would like to end my words with a quotation from Michael Jackson ; “ Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.”


Adult and Youth Literacy.(September 2012 , No.20) Unesco Institute for Statics

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Tüik’ten okur yazar orantılarının ayrıntılı raporu.T24

Türkite İstatistik Kurumu. İstatistiklerle Kadın , 201. Mart 2014

Buse Beril Durdurak


Cmn 167

İnequalities in Education


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