It was launched in 2007 by Ali Nesin, a veteran mathematics professor, who heads up education non-profit Nesin Foundation established by his father, humorist writer Aziz Nesin (1915–1995). The Village is funded by donations made to the Nesin Foundation.
Nesin Villages hosts various mathematical activities, mostly short summer courses. Teaching in the mathematics village "is voluntary; while the mathematics village does not provide honoria for the teachers, it provides free accommodations and meals". Courses range from high-school to graduate university courses. All high school courses are taught in Turkish, as the students do not necessarily know foreign languages, but any undergraduate or postgraduate course may be taught in English.
Students usually stay in the village for a cycle of two weeks. Each Thursday, a vacation activity is organized. There are no TVs or broadcast music, although there are occasionally film screenings.
Around fifteen paid staff and nearly one hundred volunteers work there every year. The village has also been hosting domestic and international mathematics, artists meetings recently.
Ali Nesin was bestowed the 2018 Leelavati Award for "his outstanding contributions towards increasing public awareness of mathematics in Turkey, in particular for his tireless work in creating the 'Mathematical Village' as an exceptional, peaceful place for education, research, and the exploration of mathematics for anyone."
After his father, Aziz Nesin, died in 1995, Prof. Ali Nesin returned from lecturing in the USA and founded the Istanbul Bilgi University Department of Mathematics in 1996. Seeing that university students were insufficiently trained in mathematics, for ten years Prof. Nesin organized six to seven-week summer schools every summer. In 2007, based on these experiences, he established the Mathematics Village in Şirince in Izmir’s Selçuk province with the support of Sevan Nişanyan.
Through the Nesin Foundation, the Nesin Villages helps students at each level, from primary to higher education, entirely through donations from the public and young people serving as volunteers. Every year more than a thousand students from Turkey and all over the world come to the Village, benefitting from working with the renowned academicians who volunteer there.
The Nesin Villages covers nearly 22,000 square meters of land, and includes accommodation for students, teachers, and staff, as well as indoor and outdoor classrooms, a conference salon, and a library. In addition to short programs scheduled during school holidays, there are also summer schools lasting from two weeks to three months, which are attended by about 150-250 high school and university students each day. In addition to their academic work, for one to two hours each day students are expected to work on a rotation basis to complete tasks such as laundry, cleaning, food preparation and watering the garden.
The Village offers a democratizing platform by forming unlikely groups comprising different socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, political views, and religious beliefs. People from every corner of our country and beyond, from different disciplines and backgrounds, come together to think, work, and express collectively. This provides a unique and invaluable opportunity to know one another and allows new dialogues to emerge.
Apart from the crickets, any factors which could prevent concentration and deep thought are kept away, there are no televisions, no music is publicly broadcasted. But traces of civilization such as electricity, warm water, and wireless internet are nonetheless present. There is no shortage of insect life!
Most activities take place in the summer months; however, in spring and autumn, it is also an ideal environment for various types of work groups, meetings and rest. It could for example be used as a place for an alumni reunion, a honeymoon in the “wild” or a mathematics and arts workshop.
From teaching at the primary school level to the most advanced research, mathematical activities of any level can take place simultaneously in the village.
We now can lodge 400 people, but there is the possibility of pitching tents if more capacity is required.
Community engagement is at the core of our practices. We must transition from teaching the ever-same audience to engaging members of our entire society as co-thinkers and co-producers. It is only through this commitment to engagement, that education platforms can transcend their social bubbles and be sustainably relevant to real people and real communities in an ever-changing world. If new communities form around our activities and constitute themselves around the processes that we facilitate, then our village does and will serve to create social change. Schools are institutions, and they need to be versatile, capable, and well-prepared institutions in order to be able to communicate on eye level with the massive and powerful institutions that drive our lives and commons.
To transcend fragmentation and polarization we function as a hub, a civic laboratory. We use the village as a place for experimentation and collective analysis of our past and potential futures through artistic and cultural projects that we facilitate. This unique space that is created by our participants and workshop leaders lies outside of everyone’s own close circuit and opens new channels for communication.
For past and present programs in the Village you can check nesinkoyleri.org