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Press Centre (10/2014)

No matter how, no matter where: Syrian children fight to continue their education

Ayman sits in the front row of his 5th grade class in an NGO-run school in Kilis. The 12-year-old arrived in Kilis three months ago after leaving Aleppo. @UNICEF/Turkey-2014/Yurtsever
KİLİS, Turkey, October 2014 – The small town of Kilis on the Turkish-Syrian border is the first stop for thousands of Syrian refugees, and many of them have gone no further into Turkey.  The town’s population has risen from 90,000 to 210,000 since the start of the conflict.

Services are stretched, and providing education to the new arrivals is no mean feat. Thousands of children have missed school while in Syria because of the war and are at risk of becoming a “Lost Generation”. To combat this, UNICEF Turkey has partnered with partnered with AFAD (Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry Disaster & Emergency Management Presidency) to build a pre-fabricated school in Kilis with the financial assistance of the US Government.
A total of 14 purpose-built schools have already opened their doors to Syrian children in Turkey, and a further 34 school facilities will be established in camps and non-camp settings to reach the target of 50. These schools, in collaboration with NGO supported schools will mean approximately 75% of 438,000 Syrian children all around Turkey will receive some form of education. UNICEF relies on contributions from the donor countries more than ever to ensure Syria’s refugee children can go to school.
Schools constructed with the support of UNICEF Turkey continue to offer courses during the summer. Hundreds of students attend catch-up courses and summer schools. Schools in both camps and non-camp settings give Syrian children the opportunity to make up for months and sometimes years of education they missed as a result of conflict.
In Kilis, the children do what they can to learn despite the difficulties. They study at NGO-supported schools established by Syrian refugees in the town. The schools are crowded and often lack books.

Ayman’s story

Ayman, a fifth grader, is one determined pupil. His school is in a room of an old two-story building recently transformed into classrooms. It’s situated down an alley of a Kilis suburb. The keen youngster sits at the front of the class, eager to learn.
"My father is a journalist. My mother worked as a geography teacher back in Syria. But she isn't working here. I want to become a doctor — my biggest dream is to cure sick people," the 12 year-old said. He is the youngest of a family with 12 children — six boys and six girls. The family moved from Aleppo to Kilis three months ago.
Ayman sums up his daily routine as follows: "I wake up at 7 am. After I pray, I have breakfast then my father takes me to school. When the school is over, I walk home. I do my homework after dinner. Then I watch TV for a while, and go to bed at 9 pm."
Ayman likes wrestling, karate and computers the most. Talking about his passions, his eyes light up the sombre classroom. His biggest wish is one of repeated by the children, "I want the war to be over so I can go back to my country and finish my education."
Ayman may not be aware of it, but his words ring true for so many other Syrian children. Against all odds, Syrian children are holding on tight to their right to education.

Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org