Saving the lost generation: Educational projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey
by Şeyma Nazlı Gürbüz
ISTANBULMar 18, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Şeyma Nazlı Gürbüz
Mar 18, 2017 12:00 am
Several educational projects for Syrian refugees in different fields are ongoing in various parts of Turkey, including establishing vocational training schools and providing certificates of equivalence for Syrian nationals, experts said in a conference on Syria's reconstruction in Istanbul, last week. The experts also said a university will be established in the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, which was liberated from Daesh in August.
The conference "Syria's Developmental Vistas," which was held by the Ataa for Humanitarian Relief, brought all the humanitarian entities that operate in the relief field together. The main objective of the conference was the reconstruction of Syria, both as a society and a state. As a result, vocational education was a pivotal topic that is believed to be the key to the reconstruction process.
"If your production is unqualified, there is no way of surviving in the market. Without any vocational training there are no products of good quality to sell," said Mr. Abdullah Rasheed, the former director of Al-Aqsa Schools in Istanbul, highlighting the importance of a vocational education.
He also stated that the curriculum of the vocational education must be planned carefully in order to fulfill the needs of the population, while indicating that hands-on training should definitely be included.
"In order to determine the needs of the population, one should go and spend time in the market, mingle with the people," said Mr. Qays Tumkaya, the program coordinator of Mercy Corps. "Many efficient tools can be produced from the simplest equipment. The important thing is to have the desire to produce something," he added.
A vocational training school has already been established near the Syrian border with almost 1,000 students as one part of the relief projects that are designed for the reconstruction of Syria, led by Qays Tumkaya. Moreover, space for 30,000 Syrian students has been set aside in Turkish vocational training schools to promote the vocational education of the Syrians.
Additionally, Turkey makes academic applications and studies convenient for Syrians, especially in masters and doctorate programs. There are several Syrian academics that are continuing their careers in Turkish universities. In addition, Mardin Artuklu University will establish a branch in Jarablus, confirmed Dr. Ahmet Agırakaca, the president of the university. He hopes that it will set an example for other universities, while indicating that Ankara has already given its permission to the project.
In 2011, Syria has fallen into a civil war and the country's educational systems, as well as all the other established systems, have been brutally affected. Most of the schools have been destroyed during the ongoing conflict, and millions of people have fled the country which has led to the total collapse of the educational system. According to the recent U.N. children's agency report, "The war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children." The U.N. also stated that 2 million to 3 million Syrian children are not actually attending school at all. In addition, according to the Institute of International Education more than 100,000 Syrian refugees are university-qualified students. Although there are still many problems surrounding them, those in Turkey are among the luckier ones, experts said.
"A generation is now lost in Syria," said Dr. Mustafaa Al Jazar, founder of the Lebanese Association for the Support of Scientific Research, while stating that despite the lack of reliable statistical data on the issue, he can confirm that since the beginning of the conflict, there is almost no education at the university level. A few universities continue their programs, such as the University of Idlib and University of Damascus, but only with a small number of students.
Meanwhile, the education of the refugees is still a problem waiting to be solved. One of the main issues is the question of the certificate of equivalence, which has become an obstacle for Syrians who want to continue and implement their career in their host countries. This situation has left people unable to use their occupational skills and, as a result, has turned them into unqualified employees. "The political side of this problem has a strong influence," said Abdul Qadir Sheikh, the head of the Free Aleppo University, while indicating that they were in touch with the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK) in order to come up with a solution as soon as possible.