UN refugees chief pledges to help more Syrian children into Turkish schools

Education in emergencies

Seven-year-old Uday collects material for recycling with his father Firas el Jasmin in the Turkish city of Izmir. Firas said: “My hope is to guarantee my children’s education and their future.” Picture: UNHCR/Andrew McConnell


Urgent action is needed to prevent thousands of Syrian refugee children out of school in Turkey from becoming a lost generation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned.

With more than 60% of Syrian children not in education, Filippo Grandi said his agency needs to do more to help Turkey – which hosts three million refugees including 2.7 million Syrians.

“Everything starts with an education,” he said during a visit to the capital Ankara.

Grandi highlighted the commitment of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to help overcome barriers that keep refugee children out of school by providing targeted information, Turkish language training programmes, skills training and greater access to higher education.

He said UNHCR would help the campaign to give more refugee children access to the national education system.

Filippo Grandi meets a Syrian boy in Ankara Picture: UNHCR/Ali Unal


Turkey has promised that all refugee children will be able to access education – and there was a 50% increase in enrolment during the last school year.

But more needs to be done quickly. World leaders still have not delivered on their promise to provide the funding needed to get one million Syrian refugee children into school in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan this year.

The pledge was made in February at the Supporting Syria and the region conference in London. But with the 2016-17 academic year about to start in the region, about $1 billion of the promised $1.4 billion has still to be handed over.

Last week one of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors handed over more than 18,000 messages in Norway, one of the conference co-hosts. And 50,000 people have watched the video below, made by the children’s charity Theirworld to remind world leaders of their promise.

During his trip to Ankara, Grandi said he hoped a September 19 summit on refugees at the United Nations General Assembly would increase the global commitment to help.

He also met 10 students who received UNHCR “DAFI” scholarships to attend university. They were among 6500 applicants for only 700 refugee scholarships in 2016.

In pre-war Syria, 20% of young people aged between 18 and 25 studied at university. But just over 2% of Syrian refugees in that age group are attending Turkish universities.

We need to keep up the pressure on world leaders to deliver on their promise of getting every Syrian refugee child into school in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

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