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Press Centre (10/2016)

Teaching Syrian children to sing again

KAHRAMANMARAŞ, 14 October 2016 -  “Father finger, father finger, where are you? Here I am, here I am, how do you do?” The second-graders are all singing together proudly and with great enthusiasm the English song they have just learned. Lubna, their music teacher, is at least as excited as they are. These children studying in Kahramanmaraş in southern Turkey are girls and boys who learned at firsthand about conflict, devastation and loss even before they could learn their alphabet. Lubna is one of the many Syrian teachers who have continued to teach voluntarily even though they had to flee their country, and face all the same challenges as the families of the children they teach.

“After the first couple of months in Turkey, I felt that I had do something,” Lubna says. “As I am a teacher, I decided to continue teaching voluntarily. I know being at school is the best thing for the children. This is the only way to help them to forget about what had happened and give them hope - or keep their hope of a future alive.”

Education is a fundamental child right. It is also a vital tool for recovery in emergencies. It restores a sense of normality in the life of children and their education will be fundamental to help countries and communities transform and ‘build back better’ the institutions and systems that have been destroyed. In any education system, teachers are one of the most vital element. 

But the sense of responsibility felt by Lubna and thousands of her compatriots is only a part of the solution. To help these children overcome their trauma, to build their confidence, to empower them and allow them to believe in a better future requires more and sustained support.

Helping hand
Since January 2015 Syrian volunteer teachers in Turkey have been receiving monthly incentive payments as a result of a cooperation between UNICEF, the Ministry of National Education and the National Postal Service (PTT). The incentives increase the motivation of teachers. They feel recognized and encourage to continue their work.The programme has expanded rapidly; the number of Syrian teachers benefiting from the incentives increased from 2,800 at the beginning of 2015 to more than 12,000 today as the programme benefitted from the support of the European Union Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

In March 2016, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited Lubna’s school in Kahramanmaras. During the meeting with the school principle and teachers, one female teacher asked for more 'toys' for the children. When the Commissioner asked 'why', she explained that the children still paint scenes of the war. However, they need to be encouraged to have hope for the future. These small items could be supportive within this context.

“The incentive I am getting may not seem a very large amount, but it helps me to put food on the table while helping the children,” Lubna remarks.

The teacher incentive programme is just one of the ways in which UNICEF, together with the EU and other partners, is cooperating with the Government of Turkey to scale up services for Syrian refugee children in Turkey. In line with the ‘No Lost Generation’ initiative, UNICEF is focusing on expanded and sustainable access to inclusive quality education, a protective environment and opportunities for positive engagement between Turkish and Syrian children and young people. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure that all Syrian refugee children are enrolled in school and regularly attend.

Since the partnership between UNICEF, the European Union and the Ministry of National Education began, 2,650 volunteer Syrian teachers in over 20 provinces have benefitted from the teacher’s incentives on a monthly basis over 6 months. A total of 5.500 teachers are due to benefit from the incentives under the current collaboration in 2017.

About Facility for Refugees in Turkey
The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkeywas designed to ensure a more coherent, fast and integrated EU response to the Syria crisis by merging various EU financial instruments and contributions from member states into one single flexible and quick mechanism with a target volume of €1 billion. The Fund is used primarily to address the longer-term needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, and to support the host communities and their governments.

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.

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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