The National Education Ministry and UNICEF in Turkey announced in early October that the two organizations will participate in city action plans to improve Syrian children's access to education. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at the U.N. General Assembly in September that Turkey will double the number of Syrian children attending school by the end of the current school year in June, 2016.
Commenting on Davutoğlu's target, UNICEF Turkey representative, Philippe Duamelle, told Daily Sabah that it is an ambitious and realistic goal. Duamelle praised the target and said: "The prime minister's target is ambitious and realistic. I think if you want to make changes in life you have to be ambitious, I very much welcomed the target that was fixed by the prime minister, and all the friends of Turkey, including UNICEF and the EU, are more than willing to help accomplish this target."
As part of the protocol between UNICEF and the National Education Ministry, 6,000 Syrian teachers have been encouraged to provide education to Syrian students while offering psychological counseling to them.
Providing details about the schools, Mehmet Sümbül, who is a Syrian refugee department chief in Osmaniye from the National Education Ministry, told Daily Sabah that there are Turkish and Foreign Language Research and Application Centers (TÖMER) located at camps that prepare and Syrian students to enroll in universities in Turkey. Sümbül added that there is a backup plan set up by the ministry in case of a new influx of refugees. Duamelle said that out of 2.2 million refugees in Turkey one-third are of school-going age – nearly 700,000 children – and stressed: "There is a risk of losing an entire generation of children who will miss out on their education, which would have tremendous implications for Syria because the youth will be rebuilding their country." Duamelle added, "UNICEF needs to strive and support the Turkish government to get many more children going to school and meet the target fixed by the prime minister, which is having 460,000 Syrian children at school by the end of June next year, and even go beyond that."
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey has taken in a vast portion of Syrian refugees. The government has spent almost $8 billion to accommodate them; it received $417 million of aid from other countries. Under the recently announced EU refugee action plan, Ankara is to receive 3 billion euros from EU member states to support Ankara in addressing the refugee crisis.
In response to a question as to whether there would be new projects for reaching out to Syrian children, Duamelle said: "UNICEF is discussing now with the ministry of education, with the ministry of social policies, and the prime minister's office ways to find solutions to reach out to the vulnerable families living outside of camps in a very targeted way so they can free their children from child labor."
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