Turkey: schools and sports are forging bonds between Syrians and local people

World Refugee Day: The Syrian and Turkish youth are getting to know each other better in host regions in Turkey thanks to joint school and recreational activities.

Since 2011, Turkey has taken in more refugees than any other country. Almost 3.6 million Syrians have fled across the border since the conflict began, posing a challenge for Turkey and for those who are displaced. Almost one million of the refugees are children and young people of school age, leading to overcrowded classrooms and overwhelmed teachers.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working in Turkey to improve educational opportunities for Syrian and Turkish children and young people in host regions. On behalf of BMZ, GIZ is coordinating joint projects with the Turkish Ministry of National Education.

For better education, it is necessary to have the right facilities. Since 2016, 57 schools have been modernised or expanded. Having enough space and the necessary school furniture ensures that Syrian and Turkish children can take part in regular lessons. In addition, more than 1,000 teachers have attended seminars to help them to handle cultural diversity in the classroom appropriately. Additional language classes and special tuition are helping Syrian children to learn Turkish and make up for lost years of education. In total, almost 75,000 students are benefiting from better education provision, half of them girls.

Young people are getting to know each other better outside of the classroom, too. Shared recreational activities, such as photography workshops and football, are helping them to bond with one another. GIZ is providing cultural and sports activities in partnership with Turkish municipalities and NGOs, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the Goethe-Institut. The project is drawing on considerable support from volunteers: social workers are mobilising and training Turkish and Syrian young people as volunteer cultural intermediaries, who in turn are initiating additional social activities on their own. More than 160,000 children and young people have benefited from the activities on offer. In spring 2019, a dialogue project was run for the first time, in which Syrian and Turkish young adults discussed how they envisage their lives together as a community.

Rawan is an intermediary and has become a ‘dialogue champion’. She fled the Syrian city of Idlib as a teenager and went to Kilis in Turkey, where she spent four years living in a refugee camp. Now 21, Rawan wants to get involved to boost the self-confidence of other young refugees. ‘I want to encourage them to form new networks based on common interests, she says; ‘and to build the kind of future they would like to be a part of.’