One barrier that continues to affect the learning of young Syrian refugees in Turkey is language. Both inside and outside of education, the advantages of supporting Syrian youth in communicating with their new hosting community are widespread.

Nael, 20, used to study communications engineering in Aleppo before the war. When he and his family came to Gaziantep, Nael got an informal job at a mobile phone repair shop. Initially, he experienced a lot of difficulties when trying to communicate with clients and co-workers. But after enrolling in the TÖMER course last year, he is now able to assist Turkish customers with no problems at all. Nael picked up the language so successfully that he is even beginning to teach his family: “I had to take my father to hospital in Gaziantep and thankfully, we were able to explain his problem to the doctors”.

This summer, alongside the European Union, we awarded 385 Syrian students with scholarships to study Turkish TÖMER language courses at Gaziantep University. The awarding ceremony was attended by a large EU delegation, including Christian Berger, Head of EU Delegation to Turkey.

The former Austrian diplomat took the opportunity to speak with the students in Gaziantep, South Eastern Turkey. Within his motivational speech, which focused on the importance of education, Berger said: “Beyond the economic benefits, higher education is an enormously enriching experience.” He also touched on the efforts of SPARK and other implementing organisations who are working with the EU to provide higher education opportunities for the most vulnerable people across the Middle East region.

Syrian students were also given a platform on the stage in front of the audience of EU delegates, students, families and representatives of the public and private sector. They discussed their experiences and what the Turkish TÖMER language course will do for their future.

Rector of Gaziantep University, Prof. Dr Ali Gür, went on to present an award on behalf of the university to the EU delegation, highlighting the importance of collaborations between major institutions and stakeholders in providing access to higher education for Syrians. The audience was then treated to a performance by Syrian student band, who are warmly celebrated among the Syrian community in Turkey.

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