GAZIANTEP, Turkey– Turkey has been flooded with an estimated 700,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the violent civil war engulfing the neighboring Syria. Turkey is making adjustments to accommodate the refugees. Half a million Syrian children of school age are projected to be living in Turkey in 2014 and they need to be in school.
A New Home
Turkish families have opened their homes to Syrian refugees. Charities have made living arrangements for Syrian refugees and impromptu tent cities have been assembled to house them as well.
President Bashar al-Assad is staying in the fight and remains in power despite prognostications of otherwise. Residency in Turkey may become permanent for Syrian refugees as a result. Turkey is taking steps to provide a transition.
Turkey covers Syrian refugees under its temporary protection policy that provides food, shelter and education in the camps located at the border. There are too many refugees to house in official camps. The large influx of new refugees live in makeshift camps and host communities.
Many refugee children who live outside the official camps are missing out on an opportunity to receive education.
Education in Refugee Camps
Turkey’s Ministry of National Education (MoNE) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have created an education program for refugee camps in Adana, Turkey. The program trains and supports Syrian teachers who reside in refugee camps.
Teachers are trained how to teach in camp settings to children who have experienced the trauma of war. The program ensures that teachers are presented to students as role models and healers. Teachers have also witnessed the traumatic experience of war. The training helps them overcome the horrific war events to provide students with a quality education.
Educating Syrian refugee children is imperative because they are the future of Syria. Syria will not be able to progress as well after war if its population is not educated. The program hopes to inspire refugee children through education to keep their hopes and dreams alive.
The refugee camps in Turkey house over 1,500 Syrian teachers. Syrian teachers have the language skills and cultural background to lead Syrian children in their studies. They play a vital role in communicating with the children and keeping them motivated despite their situation.
MoNe and UNICEF have formed a teacher workshop that addresses minimum standards of education in emergencies, teaching conflict affected children and maintaining their active participation in class. The workshop also ensures disabled children are accommodated.
Education outside Refugee Camps
There will be more refugee children residing in host communities than camps in 2014. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 159,000 children will live in camps, while 636,000 will live in host communities. That means 636,000 refugee children will not have easily accessible education.
Primary school enrollment for children outside the camps in Turkey is only 14 percent.
Free schools that provide Arabic language instruction are difficult to find for Syrian children who live outside the refugee camps. Some Turkish schools allow Syrian refugees to have afternoon classes. While this is positive, Syrian refugees have few if any transportation options.
Older refugee children find it even more challenging to get an education outside refugee camps. Most of the available schools are for primary school education only.
The Friendship II School was created for Syrian refugees in 2013 in Gaziantep and teaches grades five through eight. Friendship I School was formed in 2012 and teaches grades one through four. The Friendship II School has a growing waiting list with 75 girls and 90 boys already signed up.
The Friendship II School has 645 students and the mayor of Gaziantep is currently searching for new land to start another school as more refugee children arrive.
– Brittany Mannings