The EU has pledged three billion euros to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, with a large portion going towards the education sector. About 40% of the almost one Million school age Syrian children of in Turkey are not enrolled in any educational Institution.
In the city of Osmaniye in southern Turkey, 17-year-old Mustafa attends the secondary school next to the camp for Syrian refugees where his family lives. He is of Turkman origin and so for him studying in Turkish is easier than it is for many other adolescents who have fled the war. However, he tells ANSA that he still finds it hard to keep up.
Warding off risk of a 'lost generation'
Half of the over 3.2 million Syrians who have found shelter in Turkey since 2011 are minors and guaranteeing their education is one of the most difficult battles. "It is a decisive challenge that we cannot fail to meet, on pain of creating a 'lost generation' at risk of ending up in the wrong hands," ambassador Christian Berger, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, told the press in Gaziantep during presentation of the resources made available under the deal with Ankara on refugees. Of the 3 billion euros pledged - 1 billion from the EU budget and the remainder from member states - 2.9 billion had been allocated as of the start of this month, with contracts already signed for 55 projects with a total value of 1.78 billion euros. One of the main areas of intervention is in the education sector, with over 650 million euros destined for various projects ranging from support for the construction of new school infrastructure to the purchase of materials and equipment and incentives for teachers.
40% of Syrian child refugees not in school in Turkey
There are at least 976,000 Syrian refugees of school age in Turkey, and of these over 500,000 are enrolled at school. This leaves around 40% outside the system. "The number of school enrollments increases year by year, but as a percentage it is an uneven challenge against demography," explain officials of EU member states involved in managing the aid. Some 276,000 children have been born in Turkey to Syrian parents since 2011 and this year the oldest have come of school age. "There is 90% enrolment at primary school level," education ministry sources say. It is more difficult to get the adolescent population into the classroom, as many older children work illegally to support their families.
Several projects funded
Some 300 million euros of EU funds have gone to the education ministry for the project Pictes, which is implemented in 23 provinces with a large proportion of refugees to promote the integration of Syrian children in the local school system. More than 360,000 pupils have benefited from this programme to date. A further 315 million euros have been allocated for the creation of new facilities, which will also help reduce pressure on the local education system. The aim is to build 150 schools in 17 provinces for 110,000 Turkish and Syrian students. It is a long-term project that also includes building prefabricated structures in order to meet immediate needs. Then there is the 5.9-million-euro programme Spark enabling 294 Syrian students so far to attend university in Turkey. The idea is to create possible future leaders of their country. "We want to return home as soon as we can and lots of engineers will be needed to rebuild Syria," says 20-year-old Mustafa Ridvan who fled from Aleppo and is now studying electronic engineering at the University of Gaziantep.