‘We have to educate Syrian children’
Enver Yücel, the head of the executive committee of Bahçeşehir Uğur Educational Institutes, is a leading name in the sector. He is an entrepreneur who has been active in the sector for almost 40 years with both domestic and international investments.
He has founded around 100 Bahçeşehir Private High Schools as well as Istanbul’s prestigious Bahçeşehir University, which has more than 3,000 international students. He has also opened universities in Washington, Batumi and Berlin.
The other day we had a chat at the beautiful Bahçeşehir University campus near the shore of the Bosphorus. We were accompanied by a young girl from the Bahçeşehir Science and Technology High School who was accepted to Stanford University.
Yücel has made his educational institutes into global brands and is very proud of the graduates from his schools who have been accepted into some of the world’s top universities such as MİT, Harvard and Stanford.
He is the first person who introduced the Stem model (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to Turkey. The number of “stem schools” is now five, but Yücel aims to increase this to eight. “We want scientists to emerge from these schools,” he said.
In fact, the young student who is on her way to Stanford, Neval Çam, will graduate from the Bahçeşehir Science and Technology High School. Students of this school recently built a robotic arm to save a puppy that fell into a well, and the whole of Turkey was moved by reports of how it was saved.
I asked Yücel about Syrian refugee children. How will Turkey, a country that has not even been able to solve the education issues of its own children, now also educate Syrian refugee children?
Yücel said they were focusing on the refugee problem and conducted a joint survey with New York University in cities where the refugee population is particularly high such as Gaziantep, Mersin and Urfa. “We presented the results of this survey both to the United Nations and to UNESCO. We brought this issue to the world’s agenda,” he added.
In particular, he mentioned the joint work they have carried out with UNESCO Director Irina Bokova. “We have been awarded by the U.N. for this work,” he said.
“We have experience from Europe. We know that many Turks who have moved to various countries in Europe have not been well integrated. If the refugees in Turkey cannot integrate, in the future they will be a big problem both for us and for the world. For integration, education is a must,” Yücel said.
The number of Syrian refugee children born in Turkey over the past five years is over 200,000. There are tens of thousands more who have come to Turkey as babies, who cannot attend school because of poverty, who have become child laborers.
The Center of Migration and Urban Studies (BAUMUS) at Bahçeşehir University is conducting several surveys on refugees, while at the same time it is training teachers on how to teach Turkish to Syrians.
“Some Syrians who go to work cannot even speak because they do not speak Turkish. Some Syrian patients in hospital cannot explain their problems. Some children cannot even play on the streets with their peers,” Yücel noted.
He is certainly right to identify the education of refugee children as one of the most important problems facing Turkey.