Children who have fled war-torn Syria will be integrated into Turkey’s official education system and the government is focusing on Turkish language learning for Syrian students.
Around 133,400 Syrian students are currently enrolled in public schools run by the Education Ministry, but there are nearly 832,000 school age children between 6 and 18 years old in Turkey.
“Nobody has ever done anything like this probably since the Second World War,” Jane Lewis, the head of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) in Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“There are as many [Syrian] children in Turkey who need to go to school as there are refugees in Jordan,” Lewis added.
Some 420,000 Syrian children out of 832,000 of school age are going to school of some kind in Turkey, Lewis noted.
All Syrian children have the right to attend Turkish schools or temporary education centers, but most of them only speak Arabic and the language barrier often stands in their way.
“The [Turkish] government has put a huge amount of effort into either integrating children into the Turkish system through temporary education systems using the Syrian curriculum and the Arabic language. What they want to do now is to integrate all Syrian children into their government system, which will take a huge amount of effort by everybody,” the ECHO official stated.
“You have children who don’t necessarily speak Turkish, but also you have quite a few kids who have not been in school for a long time … How do you get a child who is now 15 and who has been out of school since he was 10? They are looking at different ways to do it either through high school or through vocational training. What are the options to stop these children from becoming a ‘lost generation’? It’s very difficult,” Lewis said.
“[The ECHO in Turkey] is going to try to focus on helping the government of Turkey achieve its objectives to integrate all school age children into the education system, whether at primary or secondary school,” she added.
“The EU, meanwhile, is working with the Education Ministry to support teacher training so that Turkish teachers will also know how to teach Syrian kids about issues with trauma and integration. They will provide some school infrastructure because we need more classrooms,” Lewis said.
“We are also looking at primary barriers to education. What we understand in Turkey is that transportation, language, cultural barriers and access to school are the main reasons why children don’t go to school at present,” she added.
20,000 students to be transported to school every day
The ECHO recently launched a project in Turkey aiming to support the school transportation of Syrian students, in order to eliminate one of the obstacles to Syrian families sending their children to school, according to Lewis.
“This is a short term project because the government of Turkey and the Education Ministry will be scaling up its transportation for refugee children. We are going to fill that gap until the government is able to do it,” she said.
The ECHO is also looking at conditional cash transfers for education to help poor refugee families send their children to school through the Kızılay card.
The EU will give cash support for between 220,000 and 250,000 children over two years, an average of around 58 Turkish Liras per child per month. The children have to be enrolled and be going to school in order to access the money, and Lewis described the fund as a kind of incentive for families to send their children to school.