(Istanbul) – More than 400,000 Syrian refugee children living in Turkey are not attending school, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While the Turkish government has been generous in its response toward the Syrian refugee crisis, Turkey has struggled to ensure that Syrian schoolchildren have the access to education to which they are entitled under international law.
The 62-page report, “‘When I Picture My Future, I See Nothing’: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Turkey,” documents the major obstacles that prevent Syrian refugee children from getting formal education in Turkey, which is hosting more than 2 million refugees from the Syrian conflict that began in 2011. The government adopted an important policy in September 2014 that formally grants Syrian children access to public schools, but key obstacles including a language barrier, social integration issues, economic hardship, and lack of information about the policy, remain one year later, Human Rights Watch found.
“Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk,” said Stephanie Gee, Bernstein fellow in the refugee rights program at Human Rights Watch. “With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe.”
The Turkish government and international partners need to work quickly to make sure that Syrian children in Turkey can go to school, Human Rights Watch said. Securing these children’s education will reduce the risks of early marriage and military recruitment of children by armed groups, stabilize their economic future by increasing their earning potential, and ensure that today’s young Syrians will be better equipped to confront uncertain futures.
Of the Syrian refugees living in Turkey, 708,000 are school-age children. In 2014-2015, just over 212,000 were enrolled in formal education at the primary and secondary levels, based on Ministry of National Education data. While the enrollment rate inside refugee camps was nearly 90 percent, most refugees live outside camps, where only 25 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school. Overall, more than two-thirds of Syrian children are receiving no formal education in Turkey.