Approximately 415,000 Syrian Refugee Children Not Attending School In Turkey

Syrian Kurdish refugees look out from the back of a truck as they enter Turkey from the town of Kobane, Syria. Syrian Kurdish refugees look out from the back of a truck as they enter Turkey from the town of Kobane, Syria. © 2014 Michael Christopher Brown/Magnum

Human Rights Watch affirms that less than one-third of Syrian children who entered Turkey are not in school due to barriers affecting the 2 million refugee population in Turkey

The Human Rights Watch report “When I Picture My Future, I See Nothing” out in November, 2015, details the barriers prohibiting Syrian children from entering school. Currently less than one-third of Syrian school-aged children who entered Turkey are not in school, totally to approximately 415,000 children. While almost 90% of children inside Turkey’s 25 government-run refugee camps are attending school, a startling 85% of Syrian refugee children live outside of the camps. Of the majority of children living outside the camp, only 24% were enrolled in school during the 2014-2015 school year.

Since Syria’s war broke out in 2011, over two-million Syrians have entered Turkey. Of the children who are now attending school in Turkey, on average they lost two years of schooling due to traveling, difficulties entering Turkish schools, or because schools in Syria were too dangerous to attend. Of the 50 families HRW interviewed, some children had missed up to four years of schooling due to the ongoing conflict.

The Turkish government has taken positive steps towards educating its refugee, but it is not enough. In 2014 the government made its public school system available to Syrian school children with government issued ID’s. Under international law, Turkey is obligated to provide all children in Turkey with free and compulsory primary education and with access to secondary education. Although this improved enrollment levels in 2014, HRW urges that this “should be considered only a beginning.”

The main barriers preventing Syrian children to education are a failure of public schools to comply with Turkish laws, language barriers and economic hardship resulting in rampant child labor among Syrian children. Many of the 50 families interviewed explained that some public schools are still turning away Syrian children or are demanding documentation that is no longer required since 2014. Most Arabic-speaking Syrian children face language barriers in Turkish-language schools. Turkey is also not granting legal work permits for refugees, creating a desperate economic crisis. Many Syrians attain work illegally in factories, receiving no benefits and minimal wages. In result of this, many families (17 of 50 families interviewed) send their children to work in factories to help support basic living expenses. Children as young as eight-years-old were reported working in factories.

To protect Syrian children from risks of early marriage, military recruitment in armed conflict, and to stabilize the economic crisis, the report urges more to be done for Syrian refugee education. More international community financial support is needed. Since 2011, Turkey has spent approximately US $6 billion housing and accommodating 2 million Syrian refugees. The report also calls for implementing accelerated Turkish language programs and investing in teachers with tailored experience working with non-Turkish speaking children. Finally, Turkey must issue legal work permits and ensure that all of its public schools are complying with the law, allowing Syrian children into public school.

To read the report, visit:

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