The Hidden Costs of Education: Supporting Syrian Students through Subsidised School Transport

Published: Dec 13, 2016 Reading time: 3 minutes
The Hidden Costs of Education: Supporting Syrian Students through Subsidised School Transport
© Abdulrahman Shahoud

By the end of September 2016, the total number of Syrian refugees registered worldwide had grown to 4 795 648 - 33% of whom are of schooling age. To date, Turkey has registered over 2.7 million Syrian refugees; hosting more Syrian refugees than any other nation in the world. In Turkey, there are approximately 900 000 children between the ages of 5-17, who should be in school. People in Need (PIN) provides free school transportation for 714 Syrian refugee children in Turkey thanks to the support from European Union Humanitarian Aid. The assistance removes one of the main obstacles stopping Syrian children from going to school.

Approximately 1 582 563 Syrian refugee children have been uprooted from their homes and communities, and forced to seek refuge abroad. At this tumultuous point in their lives, there is so much uncertainty about their futures. In Turkey, around 900 000 children between the ages of 5-17 should be in school. Last year only a third of these children received an education. The Ministry of Education intends to increase the number of enrolled students to 450 000 by the end of 2016; and to 900 000 by 2017. This is an immense challenge for any country.

For Syrian refugee children in Turkey, as in other host countries, a number of obstacles stand in the way of their education  One of the main challenges is sending children to school in a way that is safe and financially sustainable. The cost for transportation remains a major barrier to school access and the additional cost of transportation places an extra burden on already financially insecure families.

Big difference to the students and their families

In supporting education for Syrian refugees in south east Turkey, People in Need (PIN), with funding from European Union Humanitarian Aid, are providing subsidized school transport for students. The two main goals of providing transportation to students are to relieve the financial burden on families and to mitigate the risks associated with long journeys on foot, particularly for female students.

“This initiative seems like a small thing, but it is making a big difference to the students we support and their families, especially when you consider that there are 3-5 children in the average Syrian refugee family. This is a lot of money for parents when we calculate those transport costs on a monthly basis. Despite seeing education as very important for their children, parents were reluctant to send their children, in particular their daughters, to school if they had to walk long distances in relatively unknown areas,” explains Caterina Larosa PIN’s Turkey Education Programme Manager.

During the last academic year of 2015-2016, PIN hired buses to transport 236 students to and from school, including after extra-curricular activities. Given the great distances these children live from a school, without this service, they would have missed out on attending classes. The number of buses available has now increased. To date, 714 students are able to receive free transportation and the plan is to further increase this number.

Author: Eleanor McClelland

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