With no end in sight for the Syrian crisis, refugees enroll in Turkish universities

Published 01.10.2015 00:00
With no end in sight for the Syrian crisis, refugees enroll in Turkish universities

As the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey surpasses 2 million, many young Syrians seek to enroll in universities throughout the country. About 1,700 Syrian students enrolled in universities, predominantly in the southeastern provinces, for the 2015-2016 academic year

With the number of Syrian refugees reaching more than 2 million in Turkey, uneducated Syrian youths pose a serious problem for the country's post-war future. In order to combat this threat, Turkey has launched several initiatives such as organizing private lessons and language courses. Syrian students have been able to enroll in Turkish universities since 2013.

For the 2015-2016 academic year, a total of 1,707 Syrian students have enrolled in eight universities that have opened their doors to Syrian migrants. The Council of Higher Education (YÖK) enabled Syrian students who took shelter in Turkey due to the civil war to enroll in Turkish universities in 2013. Previously, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that a program should be initiated in order for Syrian students to continue their education in Turkey. He said that the universities that accept Syrians should take the necessary precautions to prevent any decrease in quality in the education programs. After President Erdoğan made this statement, YÖK held a meeting with the chancellors of the eight universities and decided that these eight universities will open education programs in Turkish and some foreign languages.

As part of this initiative, Çukurova, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam, Kilis 7 Aralık, Harran, Mersin, Mustafa Kemal and Osmaniye Korkut Ata universities accepted the enrollment of Syrian students as a part of the foreign student program and provided them education in Turkish and foreign languages with the approval of YÖK.

Among the departments that Syrian students enrolled in, engineering, architecture, economy, science and literature received the most applications. While 409 Syrian students are majoring in engineering and architecture, 245 students study economy, 218 students study science and literature, 184 students study theology, 86 students study education, 85 students study health and 67 students study medicine.

Among the eight universities that opened their doors to Syrian students, Gaziantep University tops the list as it has accepted 788 Syrian students. The university welcomed 507 male and 281 female students this academic year. Mersin University follows Gaziantep with a total of 213 Syrian students. Harran University claims third place with 178 students and is followed by Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam University with 151 students, Kilis 7 Aralık University with 124 students, Mustafa Kemal University with 111 students, Çukurova University with 79 students and Osmaniye Korkut Ata University with a total of 63 students.

The hopes of millions of Syrians, who have had to leave their homes in order to flee the civil war in their country, linger in the lands where they took refuge. Thousands of Syrian high school students who took shelter in Turkey are among them. As these students could not continue their high school education, they continue their education in Hayat's Reyhanlı district.

Education efforts towards Syrian youth in Turkey are not only limited to university enrollment, but also many high-schools and elementary schools as well as private courses that educate the Syrian youth.

Al-Selam School, was established for Syrian students three years ago and is one of four high schools in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay that provides education to Syrian teenagers.

Al-Selam School Principal Cengiz Hazırlar said 145 senior students are receiving a high school education at Al-Selam School. Hazırlar added that they provide the necessary environment at Reyhanlı for Syrian students who could not complete their education in their country. "Because of the civil war that broke out in our neighboring country, the hopes and dreams of millions of young people have gone unrealized. We were able to help the hopes of these young people flourish with Al-Selam school, which we opened three years ago," he said. Hazırlar stressed that all the young people carried traces of the war, and the school's staff looks after each student.

Hazırlar highlighted that 80 Syrian students took and passed their university exams in the last two years, leading them to enroll in various universities in Turkey. Hazırlar added that the happiness reflected in the eyes of the Syrian students instills him "with feelings that transcend joy."

A total of 25 male and 55 female students will attend Al-Selam School during the 2015-2016 academic year and will be able to enroll in universities in Rize, Adıyaman, Erzurum, Siirt, Mersin, Konya and Gaziantep. They will study pharmacy, political science, engineering, counseling, psychology, medicine and computer programing.

The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people, with at least 60,000 more missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. 7.2 million have been internally displaced in Syria – an increase from a long-held U.N. estimate of 6.5 million – and 3.3 million Syrian refugees are abroad. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. As of July 2015, Turkey has registered more than 2 million Syrian refugees, according to United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, data. Western countries have frequently been criticized by aid agencies and the U.N. for not opening their borders to Syrian refugees, as the most developed countries have received the least number of refugees.

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