After 4 years of conflict, the world is well aware of the tragedy of the Syrian conflict. Governments, humanitarian organisations and the International Community are bracing for a prolonged intervention. Most observers agree this crisis will not end before several years. The wounds will take even longer to heal.
Southeastern Turkey is one of the regions greatly affected by what is unfolding in Syria. Over 1.6 million Syrians are now living throughout Turkey and more than 80% are in non-camp contexts. They fled to large cities such as Istanbul, but also villages and rural regions often ill equipped to deal with the needs of this new population. Within Turkey’s southeastern border region, many refugee adolescents and youth are left idle and exposed to major protection risks. RET’s mission of protecting young people through education is particularly relevant here.
In crises such as the one at hand, solid foundations for intervention have to be created first. So, where should we start? What educational tools should be deployed first?
Our analysis has made it clear that the first steps should be ensuring adapted, safe facilities in which young people affected by displacement can access education and be provided with language skills.
Language skills are paramount as young Syrians crossing the border are generally Arabic speakers, whilst the host population speaks essentially Turkish. Without the possibility to communicate with their new environment, there isn’t the slightest doubt that they will face exclusion, frustration and be extremely vulnerable to criminality, violence, gender-based violence, joining armed groups, drug abuse and more; the list is long and will deeply affect host communities as well. Opening up communication is one of the first steps.
With the generous support of the ASFARI Foundation, RET International renovated and furnished a RET School for Language in the city of Akçakale to provide for a safe learning environment. Then, Turkish teachers were equipped with the necessary tools to apply appropriate teaching strategies in fragile contexts. Teacher training courses focused on collaborative and participatory learning, and introduced methods and techniques for teaching Turkish as a foreign language. We all know the difference that great teachers can make.
Our teams have organised 2 mid-term quizzes to assess the students’ progress in their studies. We are therefore quite confident their results will be great, as more than 90% successfully passed these tests. The final exam of this first session will take place on March 20th. We are all very excited and proud of the work and engagement they have demonstrated. A graduation ceremony on March 23rd is planned to celebrate their effort and motivate them for their future studies.
This RET School for Language is now accommodating 120 Syrian refugee youth from grade 6-12 who attend 6 lessons per day to learn Turkish. This number is planned to go up to 150 very soon. This is however not enough. The needs are immense and young people queue in front of the school to register and become students.
Of course, as the crisis lingers, these young people will need a broader set of educational tools to protect them. Furthermore, RET considers that they should not only be protected; young people, both Syrian and Turkish, should play a positive role within their societies. Young people are not our beneficiaries; they are our partners in assisting their communities to overcome this crisis. This is only the beginning.