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Syrian children in Turkey need education+

Pic: News24
Distressing news coming out regarding a lost generation of children, victims of the war in Syria. Human Rights Watch has released its report into Syrian refugees in Turkey and finds that as many as 400,000 Syrian children there have no access to education.

This is in a context of virtual 100% primary school attendance in Syria pre-civil war and high levels of high school attendance as well as good scores on educational ratings, such as literacy.

This is what war does.

It may be easy to blame Turkey for this situation. But, this country has taken in around 2 million Syrians fleeing violence and a broken country. Rather than blame Turkey - and blame is not a word we like much here, anyway - maybe we should all look at what are we doing as individuals, and at what are our governments and the international bodies that represent us doing about this.

This appears evidence that more needs to be done. It's not about blame, but about finding solutions.*

We take a broad view on education. For us, it's not just about going to school, although that's certainly a vital component of any rounded education for any child. But, is it fair to ask, what is an education? Is it just how to add fractions or to conjugate a verb? Or is about learning how to be healthy, sharing and fair minded person?

Of course it isn't. At its, core a good education is about being challenged, and challenging yourself, in a secure and supportive environment. As such, it's a lot more than book learning.

Recently, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed the role of sport as a powerful force in promoting sustainable development and reconciliation, two central issues we humans seems to struggling with the most. The Sustainable Development Goals, agreed on at the end of September, include numerous areas in which sport can have an impact.

This is to say, sport should not be seen as a luxury or as ephemeral. We think it should be part of any education system, including for those in critical situations like these Syrian children.

Children in situations like those Syrian refugees in Turkey need the safety, security and regularity of school lessons. But, they need more. They need to get their childhood back. Let's call it education+. You can learn to read and write in a matter of months. But you can never get a lost childhood back.

All children should have access to the basic academic learning. But they need to know about fun, exercise, physical education, play and fresh air too.

Those of us fortunate to live in peace and abundance take these things for granted. But, children like those who have escaped the Syrian war have had them taken from them.

Education+ means to feel the rush of safe competition and then know how to shake hands at the end of it all. It's to learn you can win and lose with grace. It's to get the feeling of a space that is both shared and contested, to know that rules count, to know that individualism is great but that we work best when we work together.

These are important and valuable lessons for any child. Teaching them to be children again is an investment in our future. Important lessons are embedded in sport, when properly organised. They should be part of any education system, even the most basic.

It is our goal to provide such a service.

* And Turkey has rejected apparent bids to help in its dealing with Syrian refugees, so  the issue is never simple.


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