UNICEF – Mustafa’s pathway to education

unicef-mustafaWhen refugee and migrant children flee their countries due to war, they lose much more than the roof over their heads.  They often lose their access to education. And without education, they risk losing their futures.

16-year-old Mustafa came to Turkey from Aleppo four years ago with his five siblings and parents. Like 3,6 million other Syrian refugees, they fled the violence in Syria and decided to settle in Turkey. His father Neci Mahmud (45) was a merchant in Syria and his mother Emine (42) was a house-wife. His father now works at their housing compound as a janitor where he cleans the buildings and maintains the garden. He gets the rent subsidized in return.

“I had a good life in Syria. I owned a small grocery store. I was selling different vegetables depending on the season. My wife was drying peppers… I sold them there, too. I never wanted to leave my country. But then the war started… I had to take the boys out of Syria… I had to protect my family… I couldn’t lose my sons. So I brought them here.” he says.

When Mustafa first arrived in Gaziantep as a 12 year-old boy and he and his older brothers Hasan and Mahmud all found jobs at a slipper manufacturing factory. The family needed the extra income,“It was 8-9 hour work days. I sometimes would come home very late. I’d fall asleep right away.” After one year, he quit his job and decided to help his father at the compound. “I clean the upper floors, he does the lower ones. Mustafa kept talking about wanting to go back to school. I didn’t see much use in school for him. He should get an occupation instead. Then he convinced me. He said at least one of us should know how to speak to neighbours. I said fine. Go.” his father says.

“I really like coming here. I have so many friends now. We play football together. I want to become either a Turkish or Physics teacher. I also want to become an engineer”

he says shyly giggling. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.” Once Mustafa started to attend school regularly, his family, after completing necessary application procedures, began benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education(CCTE) Programme.

The CCTE is a national social assistance programme supports education for vulnerable children and has been implemented by the Ministry Family, Labour and Social Policies since 2003. In early 2017 it was extended to Syrian and other refugee families and is being implemented through a close partnership between the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policies, the Ministry of National Education, the Turkish Red Crescent and UNICEF. The extension of the programme has been made possible by the generous support of the European Union (EU), and is also supported by the Governments of Norway and the United States of America.

Mustafa’s mother Emine says: “We started to benefit from the CCTE programme because Mustafa now goes to school every day. We received 2 payments so far. It helps buy the books and the clothes. This support also motivates Mustafa. It is always a relief to know that someone is there for you.”