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By Ayberk Yurtsever

Syrian students from Nizip-1, Nizip-2 and Islahiye camps pose with their Turkish language course certificates. A total of 404 students were certificated in the second round of the course, which ran from December 2013 to June 2014 in 20 camps in Turkey. ©UNICEF/Turkey-2014/Yurtsever

Syrian students from Nizip-1, Nizip-2 and Islahiye camps pose with their Turkish language course certificates. A total of 404 students were certificated in the second round of the course, which ran from December 2013 to June 2014 in 20 camps in Turkey. ©UNICEF/Turkey-2014/Yurtsever

Nizip, Turkey, 25 June 2014 – Gathered in a room in southern Turkey, a group of young Syrians are starting a new linguistic chapter in their lives. Forced from their homes by the conflict, they are firmly looking forward to the opportunities that come with learning Turkish.

After six months of training, the group of 27 students — 16 girls and 11 boys — sit quietly in rows, excitedly chatting amongst themselves in Turkish and Arabic as they wait to be presented with their certificates of achievement.

One of the students to be certificated is a 19-year-old girl from Idlib, Fatima, who has lived in Islahiye Camp for the last year. She speaks slowly, but deliberately, in Turkish, concentrating hard on her well-practiced sentences.

“Turkish is a very important language for us because we live in Turkey,” she says. “Our course lasted six months. Some of it was very difficult. I want to become a mathematics teacher.”

Obviously tuned in to Turkish culture, she professes to listen to Turkish musician Barış Manço and cites mathematician Cahit Arf as an inspiration.

A Turkish poem lover: Bilal

One of the students recites a poem for the audience after receiving his certificate. He is quite nervous and at first and forgets a few lines. But with a renewed effort, he manages to perform the whole poem from the beginning, before responding with a humble smile to the applause in the hall. This young man from Latakia is Bilal, an 18-year-old who arrived in Turkey in 2012 to live with his family in Islahiye Camp.

“Our teachers have made most of the effort. It is very hard to teach a foreign language”, says modest Bilal, who dreams of becoming a lawyer. “We would not be able to continue our education if it hadn’t been for these courses.”

Now that he is learning Turkish, Bilal wants to apply to the Faculty of Law at Gaziantep University.

They are the future of Syria

UNICEF Turkey Representative, Dr. Ayman Abulaban, is at the ceremony to congratulate the students. You are the future of Syria,” he tells them. “The TÖMER Turkish Language Course is a milestone for your higher education and I urge you to help and encourage your friends so that they can achieve the same success. I hope this crisis ends as soon as possible and you can return to Syria and turn what you have learned here into an opportunity. And I am thankful to the Republic of Turkey and its Agencies for their contributions to the future of Syria.”

The TÖMER Course

The TÖMER Turkish Language Course is a youth-oriented project serving young refugees who have fled the war in Syria. The course, which is coordinated by the Disaster & Emergency Management Presidency, the Turks Abroad and Relative Communities Presidency, Gaziantep University and UNICEF Turkey, is conducted in 20 camps located in 10 Turkish provinces. A total of 404 students were certificated in the second round of the course, which ran from December 2013 to June 2014. This followed a successful first round from April to September 2013, in which 300 students passed. The project will continue with new students this academic year.

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