Müzeyyen Yüce/ DUVAR

According to statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as of Oct. 16 there are 3 million 676 thousand 288 Syrian refugees living in Turkey with the condition of temporary protection status. Out of that figure, 1 million 721 thousand 717 are children. Among them, 1 million 155 thousand 788 are of school age. In spite of policies instituted by the Ministry of Education that are geared towards the education of young Syrians, many obstacles are in their way, such as child labor, child marriage, and peer bullying. 

Atay Uslu, president of the parliamentary commission on immigration and harmony, said that 96 percent of Syrian children between the ages of 5-14 are attending schools in Turkey. Uslu said that the percentage of Syrian children enrolled in Turkish schools is higher in elementary school than it is in middle school and high school. 

“We immediately enrolled the children that came to our country in school. Now the students that are in middle school will be in high school in three years. We will be following up on these students,” Uslu said. 

Uslu also pointed out that the percentage of Syrian students attending school in Turkey was higher than the percentage of the same students attending school in Syria prior to the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011. 

“Before the war, the number of students attending school in Syria was 50 percent. When I was in duty in Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane) Kurdish-origin children were not attending school and they did not even have ID cards. As such, Syrian children in Turkey have better access to education here than they did in Syria prior to the war,” Uslu said. 

On the other hand, according to a UNICEF report, around 400 thousand Syrian children in Turkey are not attending school. The majority of these children are working in agricultural, industrial, or construction jobs, according to the report. Figures indicate that in September, 55 child laborers died on the job. 60 percent of these were agricultural laborers, and 10 percent were refugees. 

According to the Association For the Struggle Against Child Abuse for Children’s Rights (ÇOCUKÇA) President Buğra Kaan Oğuz, Syrian families are required to live in the Turkish provinces in which they are registered, otherwise they cannot benefit from healthcare and education services. 

“In order to find work, families are moving to agricultural areas and their children are put to work for low wages. While this prevents them from attending school, living in provinces in which they are not registered also prevents them from doing so,” Oğuz said. 

“Their continuation in school, the reduction of those abandoning school, and making incentives for registering in school is our first priority,” Uslu said. 

“We are very sensitive in terms of the enrollment in schools of refugee children in Turkey, and we intend on increasing the rates,” he added.