Do you recall your first days of school? Perhaps the excitement of a new semester kept you up the night before? Was it a family tradition for your parents to drive you to school every morning? Or perhaps you were rushing to finish breakfast when your school bus arrived at your house.

The start of a new school year brings joy to many children. Bergüzar, Sami, and Takrit from Mersin share this excitement. However, they don’t take access to education for granted. They could have missed an opportunity to study just because of the absence of school transportation, the high cost of public transport, and unsafety.

Bergüzar, an eleven-year-old, aspires to become an advocate for women's rights and climate change prevention and studies hard to achieve her goals. However, the road to school wasn’t always safe for her:

“I walked to and from school every day, which was difficult in bad weather -- I got wet and, sometimes, sick. The most difficult part was that I didn’t feel safe. One day, on my way home from school, I was attacked by a dog. It was so terrifying that I eventually signed up for a school transportation programme. I am safe now.”

As young as Bergüzar, 11-year-old Takrit has already seen much in life:

“When my father died in the war, my mother made a difficult decision to move from Syrian Jarablus with endless bombings to Türkiye. Migration is a difficult experience for all; we had to leave everything behind.”

Takrit's father's last words encouraged her to continue her education, become a doctor and help those in need. She is a diligent student and is thankful for a school transportation possibility that makes her goals achievable:

“A school bus made my life so much easier and safer. We had to cross the main road near our school, which was too dangerous for my two little brothers and me because we were afraid of cars driving at high speeds. Even when our mother was with us, we could not always cross the road.”

Sami and his family had to leave their home in Aleppo after the conflict escalation and the introduction of new strict rules and laws affecting women’s rights. After leaving everything and their beloved dogs, chicks, and birds in their garden and an extremely challenging two-day journey on foot through the cold and snow, Sami and his family made it to Türkiye.

Sami enrolled in school to catch up with his studies and continue his education. "I want to attend a vocational high school and train for a profession that will allow me to find a job successfully." For the past four years, Sami has relied on a school bus to get to and from school.  Sami believes this has been a major factor that allows him to continue his education and achieve his educational goals.

Indeed, sometimes access to education is a matter of school transportation availability. 

Bergüzar, Takrit, and Sami are beneficiaries of IOM Türkiye’s School Transportation Programme carried out to ensure equal access to all levels of education. 

The cost of school transportation is frequently a barrier to education for many children. Since 2014, almost 65.000* school students from migrant, refugee, and host communities in 13 provinces across Türkiye have benefited from the programme. 

Designed with school students’ security in mind, the school transportation programme allows to significantly reduce the risk of harm to students on their way to and from school.

School buses serve the needs of both local and migrant children and contribute to harmony between the two communities through long commutes that unite children and encourage them to communicate with one another.

The principal of one of the schools in Mersin, Harun Oğuz, states that the School Transportation Programme has significantly impacted students’ attendance: non-attendance has dropped from about 20% to 2%. In addition, Mr Oğuz noticed that he sees more and more children, especially girls, receive support from their families to pursue education.

Education is a fundamental human right and is essential to achieving sustainable development and addressing inequality and poverty. Tolerance between different groups of people and communities living in harmony are two additional outcomes of quality education.

With financial assistance from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, IOM Türkiye works with national partners to develop a better future for migrant and local children under the Refugee Response Programme.

 

*As of September 2022