Health Care Reform in Turkey
In a very revolutionary move, Turkey has made cancer treatment essentially accessible for all. Labour and Social Security Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu announced in a written statement that the country has abolished all extra fees that were charged in treatment, surgery and medication of cancer.

This new shift in policy is part of a longstanding effort to improve health care in Turkey and make health care coverage available for all, particularly the nation’s poor.

Universal Health Care in Turkey

The policy was approved earlier this year and shows further commitment to universal health care in Turkey. Sarıeroğlu added that Turkey will continue to make improvements to its health care system regardless of costs.

The impact this will have on the population is significant as 20 percent of deaths in Turkey are caused by cancer and 450 individuals are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis, totaling to approximately 164,000 cases every year. As part of the shift, the government also increased cancer treatment payments in private hospitals by 200 percent for those with social benefits.

The Labour and Social Security minister has additionally committed to improving the conditions of public health care providers and state universities. Lastly, to avoid overcrowding, hospitals owned by the Health Ministry and the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (Social Security Institution) were merged.

The History of Health Care in Turkey

In 2002, Turkey’s health care system was riddled with inefficiencies. The country’s allocation towards cancer treatment was a paltry 3 percent in overall spending. The infant mortality rate was at 26.1 per 1,000 live births, and two-thirds of the population had no access to health insurance.

With the support of the World Bank Group, the Health Transformation Programme was initiated. The programme’s main goal was to overhaul the previous health care infrastructure and equalize access to health facilities in rural and urban areas alike. Along with addressing systemic regional imbalances, the World Bank has helped Turkey confront non-communicable diseases, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reform of the Health Care in Turkey

Since the implementation of better and more comprehensive health care in Turkey, the citizens of the country have seen an increase in insurance coverage from 2.4 million people in 2003 to 10.2 million people in 2011. Coverage specifically for Turkey’s poorest decile jumped from 24 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2011. The enhanced financial protection provided by insurance has reduced the relative number of out-of-pocket payments, especially for lowest-income households, subsequently leading to a decline in exorbitant health expenditures.

Furthermore, life expectancy at birth is now close to the average level proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An average Turkish newborn in 2014 has the chance to live 6 years longer than a Turkish baby born in 2002. This is an increase from 71.9 to 77.7 years. Only 39 percent of the population was content with health services in 2003, whereas 2011 saw satisfaction bloom to 75.9 percent.

This upward trajectory of health care in Turkey has validated the optimism of citizens looking forward to universal health care. The country’s existing hospitals are experiencing a reformation period and 500 new hospitals have opened in recent years. In her written statement, Jülide Sarıeroğlu assured that there are more improvements to come in the future period.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in TurkeyTurkey is a country where a great deal of misinformation exists online. There have been many ups and downs in the country’s agenda lately, and gathering the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkey is difficult due to the massive instability of continuous changes. Here are the top facts about living conditions in Turkey.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Turkey

  1. According to the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), Turkey ranks at 71. The UNDP’s HDI is an indicator of many dynamics concerning the quality of living conditions all around the world. The dynamics that HDI focus on are primarily health, education, income, gender and human security. Turkey has been increasing its HDI since 1990, but the rate of increase has declined since 2010.
  2. Fifty-one percent of the Turkish people between the ages of 15 to 64 have a paid job. The statistics of OECD states that 51 percent of the Turkish people aged between 15 to 64 have a paid job. Unfortunately, this rate of 51 percent is below the average of OECD countries by 16 percent. Another important issue is that of income inequality. Most people either experience a problem of unfair income distribution or an unjust necessity of working hours; today, the minimum wage in Turkey is approximately 1600 Turkish lira, or $260.
  3. Sixty-three percent of the people state they are satisfied with the quality of their water. Unlike most U.S. and European cities, drinking the tap water is not the preferable option in Turkey. The current government took steps in order to increase the quality of the water in the country, and their efforts have shown distinctive progress. Even though the image looks brighter compared to years ago, there is still a need for further steps in order to satisfy the living condition of water quality.
  4. Trying to understand the living conditions in Turkey by taking a look at Istanbul is often inaccurate. Cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa and İzmir stand considerably higher in the quality of life index. Overall, these cities offer better living conditions to individuals than in Turkey, which can cause internal migration from time-to-time.
  5. The lack of political stability in the country affects living conditions. Over the years, the political arena of the country has witnessed the competing interest of political parties of the left and the right wing, and the country faced a deadly coup attempt in July 2016. The unstable political arena affects various dynamics that directly impact the living conditions of the Turkish people.
  6. People work for extremely long hours to earn money. According to the better life index of OECD, almost 34 percent of people in Turkey work for inordinate amounts of time in Turkey.
  7. There are only four universities that ranked in the top 500 of Times Higher Education. Education quality is a problem that affects the living conditions of people living in Turkey. There has been a lack of equal spread of quality educations in all cities of the country. In fact, one often must live in a major city to receive a qualified, world-level education. According to Times Higher Education, there are only four Turkish universities listed in the global top 500: Koç, Sabancı, Bilkent and Boğaziçi.
  8. A weak social network between communities is a problem for the living conditions. Due to its geographical location, Turkey’s demographics are often influenced by European, Asian and Middle Eastern motifs. Rather than caused by ethical problems, the lack of social networks between communities are generally caused by the modernist and conservatism favoritism of specific groups of people. Even though Turkey is not an Islamic state, the majority of its people are Muslim and the country hosts a variety of Islamic practices with groups of distinct interests. As a result, there are places and times where religious interests and characteristics of people can work as a discriminating force in the society.
  9. Taxation is a massive problem in Turkey. The tax system in Turkey is a progressive one, and citizens generally pay 15 to 35 percent tax on their employment income. The main problem of Turkey’s taxation system is that the tax rates of products in markets are sometimes more than the item being bought. Today, the tax problem is highly visible, especially on imported products.
  10. The historical and cultural environment in the country is vibrant. Overall, Turkey is still a safe and sound place to live; every city has some cultural and historical beauty to astound and fascinate its visitors and residents. Starting with Istanbul’s amazing scenery, rich architecture and cultural habitat, the country still has its own way of providing a satisfying living standard.

Fostering Satisfaction

Despite Turkey’s struggles, many of the nation’s inhabitants are satisfied with their ways of life. The nation still has far to go for complete equality of living standards, but with fiscal, social, and economic changes, the nation can continue to steadily improve its inhabitants’ lives.

– Orçun Doğmazer

Photo: Pixabay

10 Contributors to Turkey’s Rising EconomyTurkey has one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. The country’s improvements came after the economic and banking crisis that occurred in 2001. Turkey’s economy is on the rise and will continue to improve over the next several years. Following are 10 aspects that have contributed to the Turkish economy’s growth:

  1. Trade With Africa
    Over the past 15 years, Turkish and African trading has increased over 600 percent to over $17 billion USD. Trading with Africa has brought a substantial amount of money into Turkey and has created countless jobs for the country’s rising economy.
  1. Turkish Airlines and Boeing Deal
    Turkish Airlines has made a deal with Boeing to purchase 25 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which will help Turkey meet demand in their country. M. İlker Aycı, Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, said, “We are pleased to finalize a landmark agreement that will bring significant benefit to Turkish Airlines and Turkey’s aviation industry.”
  1. Middle Class Growth
    In the past several years, the size of Turkey’s middle class has doubled; it increased from 18 percent to just over 40 percent. This is one of the biggest contributors to Turkey’s rising economy. The growth of the middle class has helped Turkey strive toward becoming an upper-middle income economy.
  1. Growing Tourism
    In the past decade, travel to Turkey has increased tremendously. In 2017 Turkey was ranked the sixth most-visited country and was ranked ninth in income from tourism. Turkey is most visited by Europeans, and tourists frequently visit Antalya, Istanbul and Mugla. These areas make up 70 percent of the places visited in Turkey.
  1. Privatization
    The government of Turkey has been attempting to privatize many sectors in the country. They aim to limit the role of the government to health, education, social security, national defense, and infrastructure. Increasing the size of the private sector has created a highly competitive market that has improved Turkey’s economy. From 1986 to 2003, the revenue for privatization reached only $8 billion; by contrast, revenue from 2004 to 2015 reached approximately $58 billion. In addition to creating a competitive market, privatization has created many jobs throughout the country.
  1. Employment Increase
    1.5 million more people became employed from November 2016 to November 2017 in Turkey, and the labor participation rate of women increased to 33.8 percent. The unemployment rate for the youth in Turkey also decreased by 3.3 percent. This job growth has stimulated the economy and contributed to its growth.
  1. The Turkey Sustainable Cities Program
    The Sustainable Cities program consists of two parts. The first part was approved in 2016, and the second was approved in April of 2018. These programs provide investment financing and technical assistance. The investment financing is used for public projects such as municipalities for water, wastewater, solid waste, energy efficiency and street lighting. The goal of this program is to improve the economic, financial, environmental, and sustainability aspects of cities in Turkey. This will improve Turkish cities while also providing jobs for many people in Turkey.
  1. Increasing Foreign Trade
    Turkey’s exports have continued to increase over the past few years, and the increase is estimated to continue. In 2016, Turkey’s exports totaled $143 billion, and exports are estimated to reach $193 billion by the year 2019.
  1. Contracting Abroad
    The construction sector in Turkey is one of the biggest in the world, just after China. The first foreign project took place in the 1970s, but such projects have increased greatly since then. From 2008 to 2017, Turkey engaged in more than 4,000 construction jobs abroad, equal to approximately $220 billion. This nine-year period accounts for 64 percent of all foreign contracting jobs taken by Turkey in 45 years. The cost of these projects has also increased. In 2008, the average project cost $37 million, but by 2017 this average had risen to roughly $79 million. Contracting abroad has greatly increased jobs and contributed to the rising economy in Turkey.
  1. Rapid Growth
    In 2017, the Turkish economy grew by 7.4 percent, meaning it expanded faster than both India and China. Turkey’s economy was ranked as the fastest-growing economy in the group of G-20 nations.

There are still many improvements to be made throughout the country. However, the country’s growing economy shows the country has made great strides toward becoming an upper-middle income country. The people of Turkey have successfully reduced poverty, decreased unemployment and increased the overall living conditions in their country.

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

Amber HeardAmber Heard is a model and actress who has dedicated her career to being more than just a “pretty face.” She is best known for her roles in Zombieland (2009), The Stepfather (2009) and The Danish Girl (2015). Heard was also featured in The Justice League (2017) as Mera, a role which she will be reprising in the upcoming Aquaman film.

The actress has always been a strong advocate for the importance of charity work and helping those who are in need. Now, through a lot of time and dedication, Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees that need medical attention by partnering with The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

The Syrian American Medical Society

SAMS is an organization that provides medical relief to Syrian refugees by working on the front lines. The non-governmental organization (NGO) prides itself on being one of the most active and trusted organizations on the ground in Syria. Its main goal is to provide medical care to every patient who needs it.

SAMS is dedicated to providing these medical services all while promoting medical education in Syria with the assistance of hard-working humanitarians from around the globe. Its vision is to strengthen the medical community for Syria’s future. In 2017 alone, SAMS worked to provide more than 3.5 million health services to vulnerable populations, serving patients regardless of religious affiliation, race, ethnicity or political affiliation.

SAMS primarily operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where it has provided support to 110 medical facilities and over 3,000 personnel. Now, its programs are quickly expanding to other countries that are facing extreme poverty. For example, in 2016, it launched SAMS Global Response (SGR) to address the medical needs of vulnerable populations in Greece.

In 2017, SAMS expanded its operation to Egypt and Bangladesh where it set up to meet the increasing medical needs of those who have no access to health care. SAMS does what is called “medical missions” where it brings in skilled health professionals from around the world to provide life-saving care free of charge.    

SAMS is a leader for advocacy and works closely with policymakers both within the United States and on the global level. It advocates increasing political action to help end the crisis in Syria and allow for the voices of its workers on the ground who continue to risk their safety to save the lives of the vulnerable. It advocates for:

  • Protection of medical facilities, healthcare workers and civilians
  • Provisions for access to trapped civilians
  • Increasing involvement of NGOs in decision-making
  • Support for both Syrian refugees and host communities

Amber Heard Is Helping Syrian Refugees

SAMS asked Amber Heard to join its crew on a medical mission to help assist with the 660,000 displaced Syrians in a camp. “My biggest takeaway from this trip is the indelible mark left on my soul after spending a week on the ground here…” Heard spent a week in Jordan with SAMS to visit one of the largest camps for Syrian refugees, which also doubles as a rehabilitation center for those who have been injured.  

Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees by starting a fundraising campaign. During her trip to Jordan, Heard met a 12-year-old girl named Weam, who is in desperate need of medical assistance. She suffers from a disease called thalassemia, which means she needs blood transfusions every 20 days. This is an expense her family simply cannot afford. Weam had been receiving treatments from an NGO; unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the treatment had to stop. There are 12 more children that have to live with this disease who also need help.  

Amber Heard is helping Syrian refugees by partnering with SAMS to offer a trip to the Aquaman premiere as well as a meet and greet with Heard and her co-star Jason Momoa. The money raised will be used to help treat the 12 children suffering from thalassemia in Jordan.

Amber Heard is using her influence to raise awareness of the important work being done by SAMS. With her fundraiser, 12 children will get the blood transfusions they need to fight thalassemia. Medical attention for Syrian refugees is an important cause, and thanks to people like Amber Heard and organization like SAMS, some of the suffering that these refugees are experiencing can be lessened.

– Olivia Hodges

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in AnatoliaAnatolia is known as the Asian side of Turkey. Communities in Anatolia generally engage in a rural way of living where, most of the times, dynamics like globalization and technology are not the primary driving forces. Anatolia has been dealing with the issue of gender inequality in education, and there are many questions about girls’ education in this part of Turkey.

Reasons Behind the Gender Gap in Education

The gender gap that exists in Anatolia has not only existed in the workforce but has also translated to education in the region as well. Due to several different reasons, the people of Anatolia used to wish for their daughters to stay home and do domestic chores but, on the other hand, were motivated to send boys to school. That kind of behavior was a result of several barriers: lack of classrooms and schools, the distance of the school, the economic situation of families, early marriages problem and lack of female role models in Anatolia.

As the government was focused on decreasing the gender gap in education, the officials came up with a new program in 2004 that opened a door to many other programs and establishments related to this problem. Soon, the bad image of the situation was fixed with the help of different participants and the government taking effective steps to overcome the issue of the gender gap in the education of Anatolia.

Off to School, Girls!

One of the most impactful campaigns that was organized by the Minister of National Education and supported by UNICEF was Haydi Kızlar Okula! (Off to school, girls!). The campaign was very effective and became one of the first steps in the process of changing girls’ education in Anatolia.

The goal of Haydi Kızlar Okula! was to close the gender gap in 53 provinces that had the lowest enrollment rates of girls in schools in Anatolia by the end of 2005. The campaign did not only enable a sustainable social mobilization of the communities but also solved the issue of a lack of available schools and classrooms in different districts.

The campaign itself was a collective effort of many participants and institutions fulfilling their responsibilities for girls’ education in Anatolia. The government of Turkey might seem like the main organizer of the program but many other companies and organizations were also involved. Nationwide TV channels voluntarily contributed to the program in terms of spreading the news, and Coca-Cola provided free publicity.

The contribution of the campaign in solving the problem with girls’ school enrollment was remarkable because it increased the number of girls in primary schools immediately. According to 2010 data shared by the Ministry of National Education in Turkey, the number of the girls in schools in 10 provinces was 10 by the end of 2003. This number was increased to 33 provinces and 73.2 girls by the end of 2004 and then up to 53 provinces and 62.251 girls by the end of 2005. It should be highlighted that a total of 239.112 girls attended primary school as a direct result of Haydi Kızlar Okula!

Haydi Kızlar Okula! might seem off-topic to the revolutionary decrease of the gender gap in Anatolia today due to the fact that it happened in the early 2000s, but it is considered the first of many other campaigns that solved the issue of the educational gender gap in Anatolia.

– Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in ankara
With a population of approximately 5.2 million people, Turkey’s capital city of Ankara is the nation’s second-largest city after Istanbul. Originally planned to hold only around 500,000 people, the urban center has continued to see a high rate of population growth. The city saw a population increase of 6.7 percent between 2014 and 2015 and an overall population increase of 290,000 since 2015.

As more people began moving into the city for job opportunities and a higher quality of life, housing became an issue, especially during the massive growth of the 1950s. The influx of inhabitants outpaced the construction of housing. This issue inevitably led to the building of illegal houses, public housing, compounds and eventually a higher rise in poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Ankara.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Ankara

  1. After the population boom of the 1950s, 59 percent of the population of Ankara were living in ‘gecekondu,’ or slum houses, by the late 1960s.
  2. In the Central Anatolia region, where the city of Ankara sits, more than 32 percent of households live in poverty.
  3. More than 26 percent of individuals living in the region live under the poverty line.
  4. Women living in poor households were found to be the most exposed to the effects of poverty from a study conducted in the squatter areas of Ankara.
  5. In poorer neighborhoods, some of these women’s burden was alleviated by transferring it to their daughters.
  6. More than 10 percent of the region is illiterate.
  7. Ankara makes up for 8.63 percent of the national GDP.
  8. Ankara exports very little to Asia or Latin America even though they are the fastest-growing economies in the world.
  9. In 2014, Ankara was found as having the highest annual average equalized household disposable income.
  10. As Turkey continues to expose itself to an over-dependence on investors, Ankara has become a “hostage of its own image as an economically successful state with a stable socio-political system.” Should the country see any changes to this, it would cause capital to leave and an increase in the cost of external debt.

Investing in Ankara

In 2018, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan introduced a series of measures, including tax changes and an increase in the government’s Credit Guarantee Fund, which backs loans to smaller businesses. Erdogan is a self-described “enemy of interest rates” and wants the central bank to lower interest rates. He has commented that he plans to take greater control of the economy to increase and speed up growth.

As Ankara, and Turkey overall, debates and continue to look for solutions to alleviate poverty and grow its economy, one such idea remains at the forefront. During Erdogan’s 2014 presidential campaign, he announced Turkey’s 2023 vision.

Vision For Progress

Called “one of the most important economic project[s] going on in this century,” this plan focuses on six main points. Through concentrated efforts on economics, health care, tourism, transportation, energy and foreign policy, Turkey aims to remake its economic “face” by the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Ankara are being assessed and alleviated through this very ambitious vision. This project will not only help lift the Turkish people but will also greatly benefit the Arab world.

Increases in the volume of trade between Turkey and other Arab nations, specifically Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, will ease relations between the Turks and Saudis, which could lead to an alliance. Addressing these facts about poverty in Ankara may be the answer alleviating regional tensions.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Istanbul Turkey plays an important role geopolitically, and its most important city, Istanbul, bears the majority of that burden. The government in the only city that spans two continents is currently going through significant changes. Addressing poverty in Istanbul is now at the top of the to-do list. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Istanbul that will illuminate some of the issues that plague the region and megacities across the world, and will provide some insight into the best ways of tackling them.

Facts About Poverty in Istanbul

  1. The number of people living below the poverty line in Istanbul has never been smaller. Over the past 10 years, the share of the population living on less than $4 a day has fallen from more than 20 million to just 1.7 million.
  2. The expanding difference between the rich and poor is a global issue and is one of the most commonly referenced facts about poverty in Istanbul. The Ministry of Development released data indicating that while the wealthiest 20 percent used to make 9.59 times what the poorest 20 percent did, that number has fallen to 7.96. This shows that poverty in Istanbul is being addressed by the shrinking the number of impoverished people and by closing the gap between the rich and poor.
  3. The lack of urban planning has perpetuated the realities of many facts about poverty in Istanbul. Much of Istanbul’s impoverished population resides in shanty towns, or gecekondu. More than 70 percent of the city’s housing has been built in the past 30 years. Over the same period, the population more than doubled. This has created problems with development as the government razes these properties to give way to larger projects, causing many forced evictions of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
  4. While poverty in Istanbul is a major concern, the city is doing much better than the rest of the country. This is problematic for the nation as a whole, as Istanbul residents on average make almost three times more than citizens in the more impoverished southeastern region.
  5. A significant cause for concern illustrated by these facts about poverty in Istanbul are the more than 500,000 Syrian refugees that call Istanbul home. To help reduce poverty among the refugees, Turkey has allowed them to live and work where they please, rather than being subjected to the often brutal conditions of refugee camps. Syrians can move freely throughout the city, and municipal governments have built schools that follow a Syrian curriculum, soup kitchens and even Beyaz Masalar, which are community centers that provide a venue for the Syrians to voice their needs and concerns.
  6. All is not great for children in Istanbul, however. More than 40,000 children are forced to work on the streets, many of whom are migrant children.
  7. Turkey’s football clubs are helping. Partnered with the UNDP, one of Turkey’s most famous football clubs, Galatasaray, pledged to raise funds for programs that fight poverty, inequality and exclusion.
  8. The country is tackling illiteracy as a way to bridge the gap. Literacy has been an important issue in Turkey since its modern inception in 1928. Nationwide. more than 3.8 million Turks cannot read or write. To address this issue, the organization ACEV started in Istanbul with three principles: “ (1) Equal opportunity in education for all; (2) Learning is a lifelong process that must begin in early childhood; (3) The child, as well as his or her immediate caregivers, must be educated and supported.” More than 125,000 people have learned to read with the assistance of this program.
  9. The government sponsors women’s literacy programs to address gender inequality. Access to education for women has long been an issue for Turkey. According to UNESCO, 9.7 percent of women could not read in 2014, compared to just 2.1 percent of men. As a result, President Erdogan and his wife Emine launched a female literacy campaign with the hopes of giving women greater access to the professional market, as well as providing greater independence throughout their everyday lives.
  10. When analyzing poverty in Turkey as a whole, poverty in Istanbul serves as a microcosm. Statistics regarding inclusion (or lack thereof) of minorities, women and immigrants mirror the rest of the country. However, the city and its superior economic resources and infrastructure provide a model that other cities can use when they look to address their poverty issues.

The economic situation for Turkey has been improving, but factors like the refugee crisis and urban-rural divide complicate it. Still, despite political tension within its borders, both sides of the aisle are putting a significant focus on the impoverished, citizen or not. Hopefully, countries in similar situations can look to Turkey and its handling of Istanbul as a model for poverty reduction.

– David Jaques

Photo: Google

girls' access to education in TurkeyTurkey has long boasted a prominent geographic position between Europe and Asia. It has been an important site for the exchange of goods and ideas for centuries. Its long history along major trade routes has created a unique culture that values expression and religion. Education has long suffered in this region but recent efforts have proven valuable in improving access to education, specifically girls’ access to education in Turkey. In order to understand how the country is handling inequalities, it is important to evaluate its education system as a whole.

The Turkish Education System

Turkey’s education system is monitored and regulated by the state. Its structure is very similar to the United State’s system, with an optional preschool enrollment before primary school (lasting four years), then a middle school level (another four years). The secondary portion of the education system has not always been mandatory, but since 2012, students have been required to complete schooling up through grade 12.

The overwhelmingly young population of the country continues to put pressure on education systems. One of the primary pressures facing the system is seeking out equal opportunities for Turkish students. Primary education and secondary education are the foundation for opportunity. With increases in access to education, students are graduating from the primary and secondary school systems and increasingly seeking higher education both at home and abroad.

Turkey is home to 166 universities and this number could be growing. Turkish universities have been enrolling refugees as well as attracting international students from countries in Europe and the Middle East.  There is an active effort to recruit international students to engage with the Turkish higher education system. Students have also been outgoing, seeking opportunities in the U.S., Germany and Canada. As Turkey has a relatively high unemployment rate for university graduates, foreign markets become increasingly appealing for ambitious students.

How Opportunity is Still Lacking

At the start of the twenty-first century, Turkey addressed its weaknesses with education through the Basic Education Programme. This encouraged enrollment and made at least eight years of education mandatory, which has since been increased to 12. Girls’ access to education benefitted the most from this strong regulation and standardization from the state. Enrollment rates increased and literacy improved, thus gender gaps in access to education are diminishing significantly.

The rural-urban divide tends to be a strong indicator of access to education. The Southeast portion of the country experiences a rate of illiteracy over 30 percent. The Ministry of Education (MONE) recognizes these disadvantages for rural and impoverished youth and has created programs and channels through which to increase access to education for disadvantaged youths.

Addressing Girls’ Access to Education in Turkey

One of MONE’s programs is the creation of 13 boarding schools, 11 of which were designed for young girls. By increasing access to school supplies, food, safe transportation and technology, MONE has assisted in narrowing the gap between urban and rural access.

Another organization addressing girls’ access to education in Turkey is Hey Girls, Let’s Go To School, a grassroots campaign powered by volunteers working in rural areas going door-to-door lobbying families on behalf of young women’s education. These volunteers talk with skeptical family members and are effective in addressing cultural concerns that weigh on the hearts and minds of the girls’ caretakers. Since the start of the program in 2003, the group has been successful in enrolling 20,000 young girls in the education system.

Girls of Hope is a documentary that highlights the challenges of girls’ access to education in Turkey. The lack of adequate resources and safe venues for education are one of the obstacles addressed in the film. Cultural standards and practices are further challenges for girls that most often prevent them from accessing education.

Turkey is aware of the shortcomings of its education system and has taken meaningful steps to improve access for all. Organizations focused on girls’ access to education in Turkey have helped the country progress and will continue to narrow the education gap between young boys and girls in the country.

– Madison Shea Lamanna
Photo: Google

How the Media Misrepresents TurkeyWhen reading articles about the nation of Turkey, the tone is frequently negative and often revolves around its pursuit of conflict in Syria. Seemingly, the only other topic is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his questionable consolidation of power. However, there is a conversation to be had about how the media misrepresents Turkey.

While the negative topics rightly deserve coverage, how the media misrepresents Turkey is quite simple: it ignores the nation’s positive undertakings. Whether it be providing foreign aid or housing millions of refugees, there are still a lot of productive developments in the country.

Turkey’s Refugee Population

A considerable struggle for Turkey in the media has been the spillover from the Syrian Civil War. Much of the blame for the poor handling of the refugee crisis has been placed on Turkey. What is overlooked is that Turkey shelters more than 3.9 million people, more than any other country in the world.

As opposed to the traditional camp route, when faced with the problem at home, Turkey decided to let displaced people move freely throughout the country. While this allows for greater freedom, job prospects are still uncertain.

Still, the opportunity to work is a blessing for many Syrian refugees. Zaki Nashed, a recent college graduate from Aleppo who has been living in Istanbul with his brother for more than a year, told The Borgen Project: “I just want to live a normal life. The jobs don’t pay well, but in Aleppo, there are no jobs now. In Lebanon, I cannot work. Here, it’s tough, but here, I have a life.”

Turkish Support for the Rohingya

Turkey’s humanitarian efforts go beyond its borders. One such effort deals with the Rohingya crisis, a widely publicized situation. While NGOs and Bangladesh receive praise for their work with the Rohingya (and rightly so), the media misrepresents Turkey by failing to mention that the Eurasian republic foots much of the bill.

In January, the Turkish government pledged $50 million in support of the Rohingya people to build medium-term shelters for 100,000 people and develop drinking water wells and a sanitation system, as well as building field hospitals and family medical centers.

Critics of the Turkish government claim the donations are symbolic or political. But the intangible benefits of Turkey’s involvement in Bangladesh are best construed through another project at the camps: the construction of the only playground for Rohingya children.

Turkish Aid in Somalia

Turkey’s help reaches beyond South Asia. The nation is heavily involved in Somalia, a country frequently plagued by drought and famine due to soaring temperatures. Helping this struggling country is a daunting task when Somalia’s unstable central government is taken into consideration.

To combat this, countries and organizations look for a hybrid approach to aid and develop Somalia. The media misrepresents Turkey here by portraying this involvement as a pure money grab for companies in Turkey. But the full story is more complicated, as it is a prime example of a mutually beneficial relationship between two countries, combining government aid and private investment in impoverished nations.

The Turkish Red Crescent (their Red Cross) managed the Rajo refugee camp in Mogadishu, which accommodated more than 29,000 people at its peak. At the same time, Turkish companies managed the Mogadishu airport and built a new terminal and tarmacs, while both private companies and the government invested heavily in infrastructure projects that led to the construction of new roads and hospitals.

These companies obviously see a profit, but the net effects of introducing employment and driving down costs with competition still greatly benefit the Somali people.

Why It Matters That the Media Misrepresents Turkey

It is without question that Turkey is a complicated country politically. But focusing only on the negative aspects disregards all the beneficial work that is being done.

Whether it is providing shelter for some of the most victimized groups in the world, or implementing revolutionary strategies to lift continually beleaguered countries out of poverty, Turkey delivers assistance that has saved millions of lives. Instead of focusing solely on dismissive depictions of Turkey in the media, take into account that world peace and eliminating global poverty are important goals, and sometimes the keys can be found in unlikely places.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

Education for Syrian Refugees in TurkeyTurkey is home to 833,039 Syrian school-aged children displaced by civil conflict. Since 2016, the Turkish government has worked to expand education for Syrian refugees in Turkey by integrating refugee children into the public school system. The initiative has some demonstrable success: there was a 25 percent increase in Turkish public school enrollment by refugee children in the 2017 school year.

Of the school-aged Syrian refugees living in Turkey, 612,603 were enrolled in either Turkish public school or temporary education centers as of October 2017. The Turkish government plans to close temporary education centers by the end of 2018. Approximately 300,000 refugee children attending these centers will be transferred to public schools and will transition to a Turkish-language curriculum. Another 360,000 refugee students who are not currently enrolled will also be sent to public school.

The Current Situation

For the first time since the policy was announced, more refugee school-aged children are enrolled in the Turkish public school system, at 59 percent, than in temporary education centers, 41 percent. The Turkish government plans to close all temporary education centers by the end of the year.

Temporary education centers teach an accredited curriculum in Arabic. For the past seven years, these facilities have provided education for Syrian refugees in Turkey in their mother tongue. However, these centers have been criticized for fostering cultural and linguistic separation between refugees and natives.

What Must Still Be Done

To accommodate the influx of students, the Turkish government is building 150 new schools with donated funds. However, this new construction will not adequately incorporate matriculating refugees from temporary education centers and additional funding is still needed.

Currently, the Ministry of National Education is adjusting to the increased number of students attending public school by sending some Syrian children to imam-hatip schools. Imam-hatip schools teach religious texts alongside other curriculum.

Critics of the new policy worry that Syrian students will drop out of school rather than attend Turkish-language public schools. Cultural tensions between Turkish and Syrian students, aggravated by resource shortages in public schools, could create hostile learning environments for Syrian children.

Working Toward Education for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

To mitigate the risk, the Ministry of National Education has declared that kindergarten and primary school are compulsory for all Syrian children. The government plans to enroll refugee children in intensive Turkish language courses to help students adjust to a Turkish curriculum. Also, refugee children will be offered additional classes on Arabic language and culture to help Syrian students stay connected to their heritage.

Additionally, to encourage older refugee children to stay in school, an E.U. program offers subsidies to Syrian schoolchildren. Subsidies are awarded to students who attend 80 percent of their classes and payments differ based on age and gender. Female high school students are entitled to the largest subsidies.

The Ministry of National Education’s public education initiative shows a real commitment to creating inclusive education for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Despite cultural and language barriers, more Syrian refugee children than ever before are enrolled in schools in Turkey.

– Katherine Parks

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