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Press Centre (12/2016)

Investing in the power of teachers: 'Pens and ideas can stop this war'


Mushab waves with a group of young students in front of newly-built container classrooms. Photo Credit: © UNICEF Turkey 2016
ANKARA, 15 December 2016 - Mushab was destined to be a teacher. His father and his grandfather were teachers.
His four brothers and four sisters are teachers. Even his wife is a teacher. When Mushab fled Syria and settled in Akcakale refugee camp in Turkey’s southern province of Sanliurfa together with thousands of other Syrians, he volunteered to do what he knows best: teach children. The war in Syria has only increased his commitment and devotion to his work. 
 
“I’m teaching my brothers, my daughters, my sons,” said the 32-year-old teacher, who ardently believes in the power of educated youth. “They are not only just students. They are my family. A good generation can stop this war. They will do it with flowers, with pens and ideas – not with guns.”
 
But providing an education for children who have lost homes, friends and a sense of emotional stability is not just a matter of will. It is a matter of resources.  For two years, Mushab, like many other Syrian teachers, devoted himself to his students without receiving a salary. The teachers’ families struggled to make ends meet. It took a toll on their ability to focus on their students’ needs. Now with funds from the government of Germany, UNICEF is able to provide Syrian teachers with monthly incentives and the changes in the classroom are visible. “We need this help to continue teaching and do our job better,” said Mushab. 

The teacher incentives are a key element of UNICEF’s ability to provide quality education in camp settings. It is not only a financial but an emotional support to teachers such as Mushab.  “I want them to become the doctors, lawyers, engineers who will rebuild our country,” said Mushab enthusiastically. “I want to teach them to love their country. And I will do it! My students will do it!”

Another key element in Syrian refugee education is infrastructure and school supplies. Mushab still remembers how, in 2013 when he started teaching, all the classrooms were in makeshifts tents. Cold in the winter and broiling in the summer. The support of the Government of Germany enabled UNICEF to convert all classrooms to containers. The difference is noticeable. “Classrooms, pens…everything the school needs to improve the teaching is here,” Mushab said.

In Akçakale camp, there are almost 8,000 children enrolled from kindergarten to high school. But the challenges of teaching children who have lived through war’s trauma are not just quantitative. Some students are orphans, others have lost their legs or their hands and require more attention and care. Mushab, himself, lost the sight in his right eye when shrapnel from a bomb explosion severed his retina in his hometown of Idlib. After he was wounded, Mushab left Syria with his family and crossed the border into Turkey. As a father of young children, he knows only too well that life in a refugee camp can grind away at the joys of childhood.
 
“We need a park,” he said. “We need to make our students see flowers. There are no flowers here, no big trees. Birds! There are no birds here. Birds, flowers, butterflies will make good things for students.” Mushab said he is considering moving to a house or apartment outside the camp. But he will never leave teaching. “I loved my job and I am still loving my job,” he said. “I will never leave my job.”

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For more information contact:
Sema Hosta, UNICEF in  Turkey, +90 312 454 10 10, shosta@unicef.org
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