ISTANBUL - With an estimated 500,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey not attending school, the government is continuing to push for more educational programs. In a suburb of Istanbul, a pilot project is addressing the massive problem of educating children living outside refugee camps.
It is the end of another day at Istanbul’s Ataturk school. More than a thousand Turkish children stream out and head home.
For others, the school day is just starting. Around the corner at another entrance, 700 impatient Syrian children wait to enter. Welcoming them is Sitki Dayar. He is the coordinator of this pilot project by the Turkish Ministry of Education that started last year --- a parallel school for Syrian children with Syrian teachers. According to Dayar, from the beginning they were overwhelmed.
He said they were asked by the Education Ministry to provide four classrooms, thinking four would be enough, but ultimately had to open 18 classrooms. If we had the capacity, he said, we could double again the number of classes, such is the demand.
Syrian parents turn up nearly every day bringing new children. As in the rest of the world, some are a little anxious about leaving their parents for the first time.
The program teaches the basics of grammar, reading and writing in Arabic; but, Mohamed el Hummadi says there are also foreign language classes, including Turkish.
When this school opened, it solved a major problem for many students. The existence of this school, especially for children between the ages of 5 to 10 years old, is very important, so that this generation can learn knowledge and culture, which is a good thing, he said.
The school was established after Syrian children struggled to integrate within the Turkish state schools, like this one, said principal Ercan Polat.
Polat said that when Syrians go to Turkish schools, they follow Turkish curriculum in Turkish. Because of the language barrier, the students can't follow the courses. When the semester ends they may have learned a little Turkish but failed in other subjects.
There is growing concern among some parents, like Besma Fistik, that time is running out.
"A whole generation would [go] directly to terrorism. No education. No money. They won't find anything for earning money. More trouble will be happening with the Syrians, especially in Turkey," said Fistik.
With educational projects like this one, there is hope.
"I want to be a doctor to build Syria," said one child.
Wanting to return home to rebuild their country is a sentiment repeated by many of the children. The hope is that, with education, this generation of Syrians can start to build a brighter future.