“When we first arrived in Turkey, the very first thing I did was to look for a school for my children,” says Leyla Reshid, a mother of three girls and one boy. The Reshid family fled Syria to Turkey in 2012, eventually settling in Istanbul.
Leyla says that despite the challenges associated with their new life, as parents they want to provide their children a brighter future. “We need to pay the rent and pay the bills. My husband and I even thought about Ahmad becoming another breadwinner”, referring to his 13 year-old son. “But for God’s sake, he is still a child. He belongs in school. He needs to continue his education.”
Ahmad is one of the more than 180,000 children who have benefitted from the extension of the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) programme since May 2017. The CCTE programme provides vulnerable refugee families with bi-monthly cash payments to help them send and keep their children in school. Built on the existing social protection system for disadvantaged children in Turkey, the programme is expected to reach 230,000 refugee children by February 2018.
“We need money to send all four of them to school,” Leyla says, explaining that all her children have been supported by the CCTE since July 2017. “They love their school and do not want to miss a day. I feel very proud every morning when they leave for school and I feel more hopeful every evening when they come back home,” she adds.
The extension of the CCTE is implemented through a close partnership between Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policies, the Ministry of National Education, the Disaster and Management Presidency (AFAD), the Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılayı) and UNICEF. The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) has contributed EUR 34 million to the extension of the programme to refugee children in Turkey, which is their largest ever contribution to education in emergencies. The programme is also supported by the Governments of Norway and the United States of America, with additional partners expected to join in the future.
Leyla remembers the increasingly harsh conditions they lived under in Syria. “We suffered bombings; our home was hit and destroyed. Thank God none of us were hurt. With no water and no electricity, no home” the family embarked on their escape to Turkey. “The journey was physically and emotionally very hard on all of us. The atrocities we witnessed still has psychological effects on us. Especially on my twins, Melek and Zeynep. When they hear a loud noise they still jolt in terror. We are slowly recovering from the trauma of war.”
Trying to leave those terrible days behind, Leyla says that she wakes up every day thinking about a hopeful future. “My happiest moment of the day is when I send off my children to school. “I pray for them and watch them from the window of our house as they walk to school. My hope for them is to build their own lives. Proper education will provide them an opportunity for a better future. I want them to have much better lives than us. They will be educated and they will get a good job when the time comes. I could only make it to the 9th grade in school and my biggest dream is to see my children go to university.” she concludes.