In the Turkish border town of Urfa, sometimes the six girls ranging in age from 6 to 19 don’t know what to do with themselves as the days merge dully into each other, while their 14-year-old brother gets to go to school.
Their rented apartment, too small for the Syrian refugee family’s needs, is confining. For more than a year now their education has been on hold.
In the meantime they try to teach themselves Turkish, hoping spaces in the school will become available.
“I have tried to enroll them in Turkish schools, but we are turned away, the few private schools for Syrian kids are full,” sighs their mother, Birca, whose home in the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani was destroyed last year. Since then she has pushed her girls to study languages, to take up music and lay the foundations for futures that won’t be defined solely by husbands and child-birth.
She is now thinking of joining the refugee exodus to Europe next spring when the weather improves, whatever the perils.
Indeed, some Syrian refugees cite education — for themselves or their children — as one of the major reasons to risk the dangerous journey to the West. Four years into the disastrous Syrian civil war, they are tired of living in limbo.
According to estimates by Human Rights Watch (HRW), less than a third of the 700,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey have access to public education. The New York-based rights group warns that more than 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not able to attend any kind of schools, despite an official Turkish government ruling that grants them rights to public education.
From securing a place in overcrowded state-run schools to overcoming the language barrier, obstacles for Arab-speaking kids in Turkey are plentiful. Many refugee families can’t afford the transportation costs to send their kids to school, even if they can find one that will admit their children. Other families need their kids to go out and work.
And then there are widespread complaints about Syrian children being bullied by Turkish students.
In some Turkish provinces and towns, local authorities fail to abide by Ankara’s ruling that refugee children should be granted access to public schools, even when they have space.
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SOURCE: VOA News, Jamie Dettmer