As families return to Aleppo, Turkish education program helps reopen hundreds of schools

Syrian refugee children are seen at a school in Ankara. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 22 November 2017
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As families return to Aleppo, Turkish education program helps reopen hundreds of schools

ANKARA: More than 400 schools in the Syria’s Aleppo governorate have been renovated in the past eight months, enabling some 152,000 children to restart their education following the country’s six-year civil war.
The humanitarian effort, launched by Turkey’s National Education Ministry following the successful conclusion of the Turkey’s Euphrates Shield Operation in late March, covers the districts of Azaz, Al-Rai, Al-Bab and Jarablus. Turkey’s Maarif Foundation has also opened two schools in Jarablus, and new schools are in the pipeline.
As the districts return to some semblance of normality following the defeat of Daesh, families have begun to return, necessitating the reopening of schools.
The ministry’s initiative includes a “compensation program” intended to help children catch up on the years of education they have missed, particularly elementary school education.
Speaking recently to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, the ministry’s Lifelong Education Director Ali Riza Altunel said it has hired 230 teachers, all of whom are fluent in Turkish and will teach it to Syrian children in the schools.
A new textbook — “Turkce Ogreniyorum” (I am learning Turkish) — has been distributed to the schools, which teach a modified Syrian curriculum.
Although some have criticized the move as an attempt to widen Turkish influence and soft power in the region, local education officials reportedly consented to the teaching of Turkish in the schools.
Professor Basak Yavcan, who works on refugee education at TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, said the rebuilding of schools in Syria is vital if the potential threat of a lost generation is to be avoided.
“Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, over 3.4 million Syrians arrived in Turkey. Of these, more than 1 million are school-age children, but only 612,000 of them are enrolled,” Yavcan told Arab News.
“This is partly due to the initial unpreparedness of Turkey’s institutional infrastructure for this mass influx, but also due to economic difficulties which led children to drop out of school and work informally to support their families, or to get married,” she noted, adding that enrollment rates were around 20 percent at first, but now exceed 60 percent.
“Turkey now understands the importance of keeping children in education,” Yavcan explained. “As they spend more time out of school, it becomes harder to get them to return. There’s a danger of a lost generation, which can result in social marginalization.
“As a result, Turkey invests in keeping children in school (while they are displaced) so they can carry on from where they left off, regardless of where their families go afterward,” she continued.
Keeping children in school is also believed by experts to help prevent them from being drawn into radicalization and terror networks in the region.
Omar Kadkoy, a researcher on refugee integration at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, said the program will help develop the human capital that will be central to Syria’s future.
“This initiative allows the local society to pursue a normal life that has been absent for several years,” Kadkoy told Arab News. “Instability is a key factor behind forced displacement and this is why we have over 5 million displaced Syrians in the neighboring countries. Order and security, on the other hand, are pull factors to return home.”
Kadkoy noted that a few thousand Syrians have already returned to their homes in Aleppo Governorate and have expressed their desire to stay there.
“With Turkey’s soft power on the ground, the need to seek shelter elsewhere fades away,” he added.
Students began returning to schools in October and school bells can now be heard in the “de-escalation zone” in parts of Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib too.


Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

An intended visit to Tehran was canceled and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

  • Iran has maintained close ties to Iraq's government since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, Tehran's archenemy
  • The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its alleged support for international terrorism

BAGHDAD: Failure by Iraq to comply fully with tough new US economic sanctions against Iran would be insane, analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi risked incurring US wrath after contradicting himself in the space of a few hours over whether his country would comply.
Amid diplomatic maneuvers, as he negotiates for a second term in office after divisive and contested elections, Abadi offended both Tehran and Washington with conflicting statements on the US sanctions, which were reimposed last week.
First, the prime minister said that while Iraq disapproved of the new sanctions, it would reluctantly comply. “We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” he said.
“Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran. But. at the same time, I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy.”
His position provoked anger in Iran. An intended visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss the issue was canceled, and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned.
There was also criticism inside Iraq, especially from groups close to Tehran, such as the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.
Within hours, however, Abadi had reversed his position. “I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions. We have no other choice,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.
Asked if Baghdad would stop imports of commodities, appliances and equipment by government companies from Iran, he said the matter was still being reviewed. “We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now,” he said.
Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News: “Iraq can’t afford to be cut off from the dollar-based global financial system, so it makes sense to avoid sanctioned Iranian financial entities. Iraq should also protect its dollar reserves.
“These are the only sane options for a country that desperately needs international investment.”
Iraq is the second-largest purchaser of Iranian non-oil exports, and bought about $6 billion worth of goods in 2017. It also buys Iranian-generated electricity to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the British renewable energy investor Quercus became the latest major company to pull out of Iran as a result of the new sanctions.
It halted construction of $570 million solar power plant in Iran, which would have been the sixth-largest in the world.