Action needed to get 370,000 Syrian refugee girls into school says Theirworld

Girls' education

Syrian refugee Rima’s family moved to Turkey after her father was killed in Aleppo – now she sells tissues on the street instead of being in school


Today is the International Day of the Girl. A day when girls, their role in the world and their amazing potential is celebrated.

But 370,000 Syrian refugee girls under 18 living in Turkey will not be celebrating today. Having fled with their families from the horror of war in their home country, they are out of school and at risk of child labour, exploitation and early forced marriage.

That shocking figure means that more than 60% of Syrian refugee girls in Turkey are not getting an education. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of child marriages – with 15% of all girls in the country now getting married before the age of 18.

The drastic situation is highlighted in a new briefing paper published today by Theirworld, the children’s charity behind A World at School.

It says action is needed to improve access to free, quality education for all Syrian refugees and to overcome gender barriers that keep girls out of the classroom and vulnerable to being forced into marriage or work.

Theirworld’s Director of Campaigns Ben Hewitt said: “It is widely acknowledged that girls and women face unique vulnerabilities in crisis contexts – the Syrian refugee crisis is no different. 

“Displacement, poverty and the breakdown of familial and social protection mechanisms can place them at higher risk of sexual abuse, violence, exploitation and early forced marriage.”

Turkish students and Syrian refugees are educated together at Istoc Primary School, which was visited earlier this year by Theirworld


World leaders pledged in February to get all refugee Syrian girls in school this academic year. Despite that promise, Theirworld warns the funding has not yet been fully delivered, leaving girls at risk and without hope for the future.

The United Nations-led education plan for Turkey does target several obstacles to education – including language constraints, teacher incentives, social integration, transportation and access to temporary learning centres. And the government has worked hard to increase the number of refugees in school by 50% in a country that hosts more than 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees..

But the international community is failing to come up with the necessary funds and failing to tackle the gender barriers faced by girls from poor families.

Donors must urgently ensure the delivery of the $1.4 billion in financing needed to get all Syrian refugee children and vulnerable host community children in school by December 2016. That includes the $71 million gap for Turkey.

Theirworld also calls for support and funding for the Education Cannot Wait Fund – launched in May to raise money and deliver education where it is most needed in humanitarian emergencies.

Hewitt added: “Where crises exacerbate poverty, girls can be pulled out of school or even forced into early marriages to alleviate economic burden – or because their parents perceive this option as a way to protect their daughters.

“In order for humanitarian response to be effective, programming and targeted interventions must be sensitive to gender-specific considerations.”


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