Exclusive interviews | UNICEF stops financing nearly 12,000 Syrian non-citizen refugees volunteering in Turkey’s schools.
SOHR activists have reported that thousands of Syrian teachers in Turkey have received SMS messages informing them of the suspension of their jobs, due to the termination of their work contracts and stopping of their financing support, which was regulated by an agreement between the Turkish Ministry of Education and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which shocked the teachers.
It is worth noting that the number of Syrian volunteer teachers who are included by this decision has reached 12,000 teachers working in several states in Turkey. Every teacher gets a monthly salary of 2,000 to 3,000 TL provided by UNICEF, and many of these teachers have been volunteered in Turkish schools for more than six years.
In an interview with SOHR, a volunteer teacher known by his initials as H.K. who is from west Hama countryside and now working at a school in al-Rihaniyah said that “I have received an SMS message on July 2, informing my of the suspension of UNICEF finance support to Turkey’s Ministry of Education. Similar SMS massages have been sent to many of my colleagues as well. Our school’s headmaster summoned all teachers for a meeting and informed us that our work had been suspended and asked us not to attend to schools any more. It is not clear if there are any other solutions that can get them back to their jobs or not. The headmaster only asked us to take our financial dues and that our work would be suspended till having more details. I have been working in this school since 2016, after I have been displaced with my family in 2013. I rely completely on my salary, about 2,800 TL, to pay my house’s rent and to afford the expenses of my five-member family. I hope my job will not be suspended.”
Another teacher known by his initials as A.A. and teaches Islamic education for elementary level in a school near the Syria-Turkey border in Rihaniya city said to SOHR “suspension decision might be temporary till the renewal of contracts with the supporting organizations. Our contracts were annual and we previously were informed by temporary suspension, but this time was different, as we were not informed about the time when we would return to work. The suspension decision did not include Turkish citizenship holders and university graduates. I am worry of being dismissed, then my living conditions will undoubtedly deteriorate, as I depend on the monthly salary to afford expenses of living as a refugee in Turkey.
Syrian teachers in Turkey fear that the suspension decision will negatively affect their life in Turkey, especially in light of the outbreak of Covid19 and the shortage of alternative job opportunities. Most of Syrian refugees live in rented houses in Turkey with an average rental fees of 600 TL per month for a house in Hatay state, as well as the daily expenses and the high prices.
It is worth noting that thousands of Syrian teachers have been hired by the Ministry of Education in Turkish educational institutions as volunteer teachers through an agreement signed between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF which pay their salaries with other donor organizations, while many of these teachers have been granted Turkish citizenship. Moreover, Turkey’s education ministry has guaranteed giving extra salaries to the Turkish citizenship holders.