In times of displacement, education is crucial. It can foster social cohesion, provide access to life-saving information, address psychosocial needs and offer a stable and safe environment for those who need it most. It also helps people to rebuild their communities and pursue productive, meaningful lives.
In Turkey, national legislation supports the right of all children to receive an education, including children whose families have sought temporary and international protection. UNHCR works with its partners so that refugees are aware of these rights and are assisted with procedures to enroll their children. As proficiency in Turkish is key to academic success, UNHCR works closely with the Ministry of National Education to ensure that children receive additional assistance in learning Turkish.
UNHCR’s education strategy promotes access of refugees to a broad continuum of educational opportunities, ranging from formal education to higher education as well as non-formal education opportunities for adults to learn Turkish language and new skills. A core element of this strategy is to promote the effective inclusion of refugees in the national education system, taking into consideration both the national policy context and the work of all stakeholders in the education sector. In Turkey, a substantial part of UNHCR’s education programming focuses on persons over 18 years of age, requiring effective linkages with livelihoods programming and the promotion of smooth transitions from learning to work.
UNHCR works in close coordination with the Higher Education Council and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) to facilitate access of refugee youth to higher education. Refugee students are also awarded scholarships to study at Turkish universities through UNHCR’s support. Turkey hosts the largest DAFI programme (UNHCR’s worldwide scholarship programme). As refugees from countries other than Syria are expected to pay foreign student fees at universities, UNHCR supports refugee students who have been accepted into degree programmes or who are currently enrolled in university programmes with cash grants.
The ability to communicate effectively with others in the communities in which people live contributes significantly to refugee protection enabling people to live with dignity, have access to services and to interact socially with those around them. For this reason, UNHCR works with the Ministry of National Education to expand the provision of free language classes offered to adults through its network of Public Education Centres. Adults are also able to attend skills training courses offered by these centres to prepare them for the labour market. To contribute to the Ministry of National Education’s efforts to deliver quality non-formal education to youth and adults, UNHCR also provides support to Public Education Centres to serve refugees and host communities more effectively.
UNHCR also provides support to UNICEF with regards to the coordination of the education sector within the framework of the 3RP by leading the higher education sub-working group and by working with relevant partners to promote alignment of activities around common strategic objectives. In 2019, the Global Refugee Forum witnessed strong engagement from Turkey’s education sector. Pledges from Turkey following the Forum included increased education services and vocational training, the construction of schools, as well as conditional cash transfer for education in specific cases.