400,000 Syrian Refugee Children Not Enrolled in School in Turkey


The US-based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that over 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not attending school in spite of the fact that the Turkish government has allowed them to use the Turkish education system, reports Suzan Fraser for the Associated Press.

The reasons for this include the language barrier, integration problems, and financial difficulties. Human Rights Watch asked the international community to provide financial and technical support for actions that will open access to an education for these children.

First, Turkey needs to provide language interpretation support and to broadcast information to the refugees about enrolling in schools, says the group. The country also needs to grant work permits to the refugees to lower the rate of child labor among refugee young people.

“Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk,” said Stephanie Gee, of the Human Rights Watch’s refugee rights program. “With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe.”

Last year, Turkey permitted Syrian refugees to attend the country’s schools, but only 212,000 were enrolled. While 90% of children in refugee camps had enrolled in schools, most of the Syrians live outside of camps where just 25% of school-aged children were enrolled.

If the children are enrolled in school and are attending, it will lower the risk of military recruitment or early marriages, says HRW.

The human rights group said that the Turkish government has been magnanimous in its reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis. Still, the country has struggled to help schoolchildren receive the education to which they are entitled under international law.

The report, entitled “When I Picture My Future, I See Nothing: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Turkey,” explains the hurdles that are keeping Syrian refugee children from getting an education in Turkey.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 136 refugee children and their relatives living outside the camps. These children’s educations were first disrupted in Syria, where schools were damaged during the fighting or were overtaken by armed entities. Some children missed as much as four years of education and could not attend school in Turkey.

There are a limited number of temporary education centers, but they do not have the capacity to house the number of Syrian children who need access to school. Many of the centers charge tuition or require additional transportation fees that are out of reach for the struggling refugee families.

Parents often cannot work legally in Turkey, which makes supporting their families with the money they make in the informal work market impossible. Because of this, Syrian refugee children are working in large numbers.

Turkey says it has already spent $252 million on refugee education in 2014-2015 alone.

The Ahlulbayt News Agency relays that the report concluded:

“If a child doesn’t go to school, it will create big problems in the future – they will end up on the streets, or go back to Syria to die fighting, or be radicalized into extremists, or die in the ocean trying to reach Europe.”