EU-aided education project for Syrians starts in Turkey

Nearly 56 education facilities to be built for Syrian refugees and their host communities with some $160m EU fund

The World Bank announced Wednesday the beginning of an international project to construct over 50 education facilities mainly for Syrian refugees in Turkey's southern provinces.

The Education Infrastructure for Resilience Project, which is funded by the European Union and administered by the World Bank, is targeting to aid Turkey with providing education for Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTP) and their host communities, according to a press release.

The project includes three components - supporting school infrastructure investments, enhancing the quality of the learning environment, and project management and technical capacity building for infrastructure.

According to the statement, the project finance of €150 million (some $160 million) will be provided by European Commission within the scope of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey program.

Turkey's Ministry of National Education (MEB) and Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) will also be engaged in the project to expand disaster-resilient education infrastructure.

The World Bank said MEB would build nearly 56 formal and informal education facilities along with community centers to touch directly over 40,000 beneficiaries every year.

The project will be conducted mainly in priority provinces -- Adana, Mersin, Hatay, Kilis, Kahramanmaras, Osmaniye -- where the majority of school-aged and out-of-school Syrians under temporary protection live.

The World Bank stated that the project would additionally help the expansion of disaster-resilient education infrastructure investments in major Turkish cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir where a large number of Syrian refugees also live at the district level.

"Today, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country, and about 3.2 million of these refugees are Syrians," Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Turkey, said in the statement.

Zutt said so far the Turkish government and people had helped most of these refugees to register, find housing, and obtain key health and education services.

"Expanding access to education remains a critical challenge, because large numbers of refugees are overwhelming local schools and because children, whether or not they are refugees, cannot afford to wait to acquire the learning needed to hold a job," Zutt said.

"The World Bank is happy to work with the Turkish Government and the EU to build the schools needed to enable Syrian refugee children, as well as Turkish host-community children, to obtain work and to contribute productively to the social and economic life of Turkey."

David Sislen, World Bank Manager for Urban and Disaster Risk Management, Europe and Central Asia Region said Turkey was one of the countries most affected by the refugee crisis.

"We are pleased to contribute to Turkey's admirable efforts to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis as it becomes clearer that the situation poses a complex development challenge for the region," Sislen said.

"Based on our 25-year partnership for improving overall disaster risk management and reducing disaster risks in Turkey, we are pleased to see that the Safe Schools Program in Turkey is evolving to help Syrian kids to be back at school," he added.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and in excess of 10 million displaced, according to the UN.

Turkey's official figures show that the country has spent more than $25 billion from its own national resources for hosting the refugees since the beginning of the conflict.