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Syrian refugee children get back to school and begin again

Because of the many Canadians who generously donated to our Syrian refugee crisis efforts, thousands of children are getting back where they belong: in the safety of classrooms and on a path of learning and play.

Children playfully walk in a line to their new classroom.

In Turkey — where children make up almost half of all Syrian refugees — refugee children completed a summer pre-primary program, designed to help them adjust to a whole new curriculum and culture.

Indeed, the new accommodations are enabling students to flourish in many ways, especially with the support they gain from one another:

“Those out-of-school are at much higher risk of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect,” explains Plan International’s Education in Emergencies Specialist in Turkey, Zeynep M. Turkmen Sanduvac.

“The idea with this project is to prepare the children for school where they will not only have structure and be intellectually stimulated, but also be safe,” he adds.

Three children smile and pose in their classroom.

Prior to arriving in the mainly Turkish-speaking country, many Syrian children only spoke Arabic, posing a barrier to education. But, in their new classes, refugee children are learning the new language, numeracy and basic literacy so they can smoothly transition into future schooling and have more opportunities in life.

A boy sits and reads a book in his classroom library.

Canadians’ are also helping build the capacity of host communities and schools by providing new supplies like computers, kitchen appliances, furniture and playground, sports and music equipment!

“I am learning how to hold my pencil correctly. I am learning numbers, I like the decorations in the art corner. I like all games, but my favourites are the ones with Turkish and Arabic singing,” says Refah, age 6.

Teachers across host communities have been trained on new inclusive teaching techniques and are mindful of integrating Arabic traditions into daily activities. Such measures help offer children consistent routines and comfort through familiarity, while both merging and preserving cultures.

“We hope the benefits families see — and the emphasis that is placed on helping them retain their Syrian heritage — will encourage them to enrol their children in school,” explains Sanduvac.

Students make heart symbols with their hands as they happily sit and eat snacks together.

♥ Students feel the love while enjoying their free daily meals. This food supports nutrition and attentiveness, while also alleviating some financial stress for families.

Parents have also been engaged through awareness campaigns and community meetings to promote education and foster harmonious relationships among new neighbours.

“I have three children,” says one mother. “My wish for them is that they stay mentally strong, and integrate well into society. I also desire that they receive a good education and attain respect within their community. I want them to be happy in their lives!”

Children observe a teeth-brushing demonstration.

Schools were upgraded to include improved sanitation facilities like water systems, latrines and hand washing stations. Here, children are taught proper hygiene practices, like brushing their teeth, to help promote good health.

At the pre-school, children have an important opportunity to play, helping them temporarily forget about their difficult experiences and have a chance to simply be children.

“I like my school and all the activities here. Mostly, I like puzzles, art and drama. I hope there is more schooling in my future!” says Lima, 6.

And, as an exciting hub of social activity, the centres enable children to make new friends.

“I have many friends here. I’m happy to be able to play with friends at school. I love my teachers,” shares Adnan, 6.

Two girls play dress up with toy doctor equipment and smile.

Creativity offers children exposed to violence, stressful journeys and loss of or separation from family members a positive way to cope with trauma. Counsellors are also on hand to provide psycho-social support, as needed.

“When children are experiencing complex emotions, it’s important they feel they are in a safe space with an outlet to express their feelings,” emphasizes Sanduvac. And they’ve now found that space, in their school.

Today, Syrian refugee children of all ages, around the world, have renewed hope and confidence.

And — with support continuing to help more than 200,000 affected children and families in the coming years — many more children, will also get a fresh chance to return to school and start their lives anew.

Double panel photo: at left a girl proudly raises her school work and smiles, at right a boy sits doing crafts, smiling and waving to the camera.

Thank you!