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Organized by Maya Vakfı and the European Parliament Turkey Forum, “Bridging the Gaps in the EducationSector: Syria and the Frontline States” panel was held at the European Parliament.

In the last two years Maya Vakfı alongside the Ministry of Education have worked towards implementing a “Trauma Informed Schools” project, which throughout the panel received high praise; where civil society, private sector and public partnerships for refugee child-education were discussed.

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The European Union hosted the conference “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” on April 24-25. Maya Vakfı held a panel on the sidelines of the conference to further elaborate on the theme choosing education as a topic. The keynote speakers were MEP Javi López one of the vice-chairs of European Parliament Turkey Forum and Faruk Kaymakcı, Turkey’s Permanent Representative Ambassador to the European Union.  Panel participants included, Esra Özsüer President of Maya Vakfı Board of Trustees, Sarah Brown Chief Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education as well as the founder of Theirworld an international non-governmental organization supporting educational projects. Yakzan Shishakly Director of Maram Foundation, Jaz O’Hara Founder of Worldwide Tribe, Claudio Colantoni Regional Director of Relief International in Jordan, and academician Dr. Christina Bache member of UN PRME Business for Peace. Laura Batalla Adam Secretary General of the European Parliament Turkey forum moderated the panel.

Ambassador Kaymakcı: The psychological aspect of schooling Syrian children is very important

Faruk Kaymakcı contributed with the following key information, “Apart from children arriving through immigration, until now there are 250 thousand Syrian children born in Turkey. Turkey has so far has spent over 30 billion dollars for the Syrian refugees. The EU is trying to share the load. They guaranteed € 3 billion, but only 1.9 billion of the money was used. It was by far the easiest directly transferred money from the EU to the Syrians, but still, the speed was not good enough”. Kaymakcı stated that Turkey’s trying to do its utmost best with regards to education of Syrian children, emphasizing the importance and much needed support of non-governmental organizations and continued: “I see the works of Maya Vakfı, which is our host today. When both Syrian children’s current and past circumstances are considered, the psychological aspect of schooling them is very important. We cannot talk about social adaptations without correcting their psychology.

Özsüer: Children can only be together outside if they play together at school

Esra Özsüer Maya Vakfı Board of Trustees President, went on to explain with reference to the project “Trauma Informed Schools” in conjunction with the Ministry of National Education, stated that “psychosocial support is the most important shortfall they see with regards to social cohesion of Syrian children and that they were carrying out studies in Turkey in the field of psychosocial support for 4 years”. She continued: “When we started, there were not many institutions working in this field. Still there isn’t. We saw the need in the beginning in this field and acted. We formed a team of clinical psychologists. This need, we identified during the studies we conducted in the field, the schooling of Syrian children spread further to temporary schools and then to public schools. The Ministry of National Education is doing their best for the schooling of the Syrian children. We, as a non-governmental organization, are trying to make an integral contribution to the work of National Education as much as possible in the direction of our expertise with innovative approaches.”

Özsüer believes that “it has made it more difficult for children to socialize in harmony, because traumatic experiences combined with language barrier create difficulties for learning” and added, “In our work on social adaptation under the Trauma Informed Schools Project, we are trying to deal with children’s trauma first. The main purpose is to make the schools “trauma safe” for the children by educating and organizing seminars that we give to teachers, parents, servants, administrators and psychological consultants. To create a safe ecosystem of high trauma awareness around them. In the second step, we are working on reflection of the social effects of this ecosystem on the host community. Because children and the families that live together are also affected from the traumas of these children and families. In the third step, we are carrying out studies aiming at social harmony with a community-based approach. They can play together outside only if we can make them play together at school “.

Özsüer called attention to the fact that the “lost generation” emphasis was frequently made during the talks about Syrian children and young people. She further elaborated: “We see that they do their best not to be the” lost generation “when we carry out our studies if the opportunity is given, they use their potential at the highest level. Therefore, education is the only opportunity in hand to avoid inequality between other peers if their disadvantaged situations are considered. We support them, so they can cope with their trauma so that they can use this opportunity comfortably. We think that we can only prevent the problems of “the lost generation” and the problems they may bring to host society as such”.

Brown: The children who are going to school to get educated, are not prepared for education

Sarah Brown, Founder of Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education, brings together the private sector and humanitarian work in the international arena under pointed out the importance of refugee child schooling: “If you can turn the society you study to a community made up of educated individuals, you are also taking care of your problems in other areas to a great extent. As the population is made up of more conscious and healthy individuals, these individuals also have more economic participation in the future. The security of those areas and the peace of mind are also strengthened. So, everything depends on the education. All of this is possible with education”.

Brown continues by pointing out that before the war in Syria, every child had the right to education and that these children were forced to leave behind this basic right and flee. Their families still have the strong will to see their children go to school no matter the circumstances they are in. Brown states: “we are working to ensure that all Syrian children have the right to education. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan make great sacrifice to ensure the participation of these children to education and they do their best. They are extremely generous hosts, but when considering the size of the problem, there are still too many and complicated problems. The most important thing in solving these problems is the funds that will support these efforts. When you look at international conferences everybody promises to fund but they need serious work and follow-up on how to use them or how to configure them. Political leaders from all over the world gave the promise that they would school all Syrian children at an international conference in London three years ago. At that time, the financial promises were about to complete the official funds. No one is clear about how much of that money was spent on education. We see that this promise is not kept for seven hundred thousand children. On the other hand, in the education system of Jordan and Turkey you see things happen which were not considered to happen two three years ago. As I said, what is missing here is the required funds. We call on all to act to guarantee that these funds will be separated for education purposes”. Brown continued to explain that in 2017 Theirworld supported teacher training via Maya Vakfı’s Trauma Informed Schools Project and will continue to do so this year. “We are looking for innovative work that will open the way for education. We are trying to find ways to guarantee the success of children involved in the education system, and it is important for us in this regard to see that the small work of the Maya Vakfı is growing day by day and potentially going to get bigger.

She also points out that the large NGO’s are not well placed because when they are given funding they are told exactly what to do with it. For this reason, we have gone from being an advocacy institution to being a team that also runs pilot projects. We can create new approaches in the system and make successful works by trying to do things that big ones cannot do with small non-governmental organizations and try more innovative approaches. After a while, this success allows the system itself to adopt the work. It took quite a long time to identify the needs in this area in Turkey and take required decisions for directing the use of funds from outside the EU funds. There is still uncertainty about how to use external funding for education, but in the middle of it, children who are coming to school for education are not ready for education.

The work of the Maya Vakfı is very important for us in this regard. The thing that touched me the most in Maya’s work was the direct reflection of the work to the social base. Teachers were trained in a very short, very intensive, well-planned and influenced study. More impressive was the impact of the work and its success on the authorities at the local and ministry level in the National Education.

Because the results of the work can be measured very easily and can be told out, and of course because the positive impact is so obvious, managers are encouraged to support and incorporate these innovative works in places where there is not as much resource and political will to do it”

Once the panelists successfully concluded their speeches, the panel finished with a question and answer section.