Schools and community centres for Syrian refugees in Turkey

29.01.2016 – Some 2.5 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, primarily to the southern provinces, since the Syrian conflict began. Over two million of them live in towns and villages rather than camps.

Many children and young people were unable to attend Turkish schools in the past because there was no room for them. UNCHR estimates that just 20 per cent of Syrian children are enrolled at Turkish schools, and even then they receive their education in extra afternoon classes. This is because they only speak Arabic, not Turkish. In most cases, their parents did not receive work permits to allow them to earn a living legally in Turkey. ‘One of the main reasons why the Syrian refugees moved on was because they couldn’t see a future for their children,’ says Carl Tästensen, Country Director for Turkey, Syria and Iraq at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Commissioned by the German Government, GIZ set about improving the school situation in late 2015. So far, the company has completed commissions worth EUR 1.4 million in Gaziantep, a province with a particularly high number of refugees, to expand four primary and secondary schools, providing space for 2,000 Syrian and 2,500 Turkish children. The Turkish Ministry of National Education is recruiting Syrian teachers from among the refugees and paying them a modest allowance. With German assistance, the teachers are attending training to improve the quality of their work and their skills in dealing with traumatised children. The Syrian children are receiving Turkish lessons to enable them to attend regular classes in the near future. GIZ is also working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to assist schools with providing joint activities for Turkish and Syrian families. Previously, Syrian children had largely lived in separate areas to their Turkish contemporaries. There are many other BMZ-commissioned initiatives in the pipeline to modernise Turkish schools and thereby create more spaces for Syrian children.

GIZ is also carrying out a BMZ mandate to expand ten multi-purpose community centres in Turkey’s south-eastern provinces in cooperation with Welthungerhilfe. At these centres, doctors, social workers and psychologists hold surgeries. Refugees can take Turkish lessons to help them settle into their new home more easily. English and computer classes are being offered to Syrians and the local population to improve their job prospects. The goal is for individuals to learn a trade, such as mobile phone repair, hairdressing or tailoring, from which they can earn a living. The centres run sporting and cultural activities to enable locals and refugees to get to know one another. The programme is delivered by non-governmental organisations supported by GIZ. BMZ is providing EUR 10 million for this purpose between late 2015 and mid-2017.

‘We are doing everything we can to improve conditions for refugees while taking care not to neglect the populations in the host communities. After all, their living conditions should not dramatically deteriorate as a result of the refugees being there. This is important in promoting acceptance,’ says Tästensen. Many similar projects are currently starting up or are in the pipeline.