Press Centre 2010/04/23: General Information

UNICEF Celebrates the Children’s Day of All Children

Photo: Oktay Üstün

The Catch up Education programme aims to help out-of school girls and boys aged 10-14 by a condensed curriculum and prepare them to reenter formal schooling with necessary credentials.

Girls and boys in Turkey are very lucky as they have a day dedicated to them since 1923. The day of the establishment of the Turkish Parliament was dedicated to the future of Turkey, to children. Much has changed in the lives of children in Turkey since then.

More than 30% of Turkey’s 72.6m population is made up of children. People aged 10-19 constitute 17.5% of the population. This is a great advantage for the country but only provided that these girls and boys are able to develop to their full potential.

Turkey has made progress in the areas of child rights, child health and development, education, protection and participation.

Turkey has made tremendous achievements in reduction of child mortality, one of the fastest reductions among the OECD countries. This is mainly due to right child health policies put in place and through ensuring full immunization, breastfeeding and nutrition. UNICEF worked actively for the creation of baby-friendly hospitals and mother support groups to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates. Another focus area is the promotion of iodized salt use to address iodine deficiency disorders. Significant progress in health and education has put Turkey on track towards the MDGs. Coverage of pre-primary education for the 60-72-month age group reached 50% in 2008-9.

Net primary school enrolment was 98.2% (97.8% for girls) in the 2009-10 school year, according to the Ministry of National Education, compared to 93.5% (88.5% for girls) ten years earlier.

Ministry of National Education and UNICEF led a drive to achieve gender parity in primary school enrolment by mobilizing families, school personnel and administrative authorities.  The Girls’ Education Campaign has succeeded in reducing the number of out-of-school girls and the gender gap in primary education from 6.34% in 2002-2003 to 0.91% in 2008-2009. It also resulted in a significant increase in boys’ enrolment.  

As of November 2009, a total of 35,000 children – two thirds of them girls - were benefiting from the catch-up education programme introduced during the 2008-2009 school year.

The government has embarked on the reform of the judicial system and programmes have been developed to ensure that children in contact with the law are treated in line with international standards and the Child Protection Law of 2005. UNICEF works with law enforcement officials, the judiciary and social services to strengthen the system to prevent and address abuse and exploitation of children, particularly those outside of parental care and in contact with the law. UNICEF strives to create opportunities for Turkey’s 13 million adolescents to learn lifeskills, to protect them from HIV/AIDS and live healthy, productive lives.

The Ministry of Justice and UNICEF has been working to establish models and mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the Child Protection Law passed in 2005. UNICEF advocacy resulted in the establishment of a Child Rights Monitoring Committee within the Parliament to raise awareness on children’s issues, review laws, budgets and policies related to children and monitor the implementation of child rights nationwide. UNICEF continues to advocate for the establishment of an ombudsperson for children.

Due to the impressive economic growth in recent years and improved quality of life, the rate of migration to mega cities has accelerated. However, statistics reveal that despite all government efforts, this economic growth has not benefited all fairly. While the country has witnessed a steady decline in poverty over the past few years, child poverty has not declined as much. In fact, there are indications that child poverty has increased in rural areas.

Different capacity building programmes have been developed for Juvenile Justice professionals, social workers who work with children in institutional settings and for foster families, and professionals working with children deprived of their liberty, and these programmes have been institutionalized by the government.

UNICEF advocacy efforts with the parliament and Prime Minister’s office proved to be instrumental in amending the Anti-Terrorism Law and other legislation for the benefit of children.

UNICEF, in collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology, has created the Child Rights Syllabus, contributing to system change and adding a strategic dimension to its relations with the media. The Syllabus was implemented in the curricula of communication faculties of seven universities for the first time in Turkey.

The Child Friendly Media Network, with more than 350 media professionals, was established after media trainings conducted all around Turkey. Use of Ethical Guidelines on Child Rights and Media was advocated.

A Knowledge Management Centre was designed and launched as an online resource to facilitate information sharing between UNICEF Turkey and interested parties. The Centre positions UNICEF as the ‘Go To’ place for global knowledge on children and creates collective knowledge for sharing, learning and distribution.

Areas for Future Development:
Access to early childhood care and development (ECCD) services is very limited and pre-primary enrolment is 38.5% with wide regional and socioeconomic variation. UNICEF and the Ministry of National Education have developed programmes to increase the coverage to 100 percent for the 60-72 month age group and 50 percent for the 36-72 month age group by 2014. UNICEF Turkey, in cooperation with the EU, is working to enhance the existing preschool system and advocating for the introduction of community based daycare model.

In 2009, minimum standards for primary education institutions were developed and nationally adopted. Efforts to get the last 2% of primary school-age children into school, thus ensuring 100% participation in eight-year primary education and full gender parity continued in 2009.
The net enrolment ratio in secondary education is 64.9% - 67,5% for boys and 62.2% for girls.

Work is underway to complete the infrastructure for implementing alternative measures. As of 2008, the average length of trial is 414 days in child courts and 502 days in child heavy penalty courts. Anti-terrorism legislation still permits the trial and punishment of children over 15 as if they were adults.

The UNICEF County Office began operations in Turkey 59 years ago, in 1951. Since then working closely with partners, UNICEF supports the Government’s priorities of expanding services to socially excluded children, disparity reduction, enhancing protection, equipping adolescents with knowledge and skills, implementing policies and legislation and increasing resources for children.

UNICEF will continue to work for children until all children can benefit from equal rights and freedoms and a world fit for children has been created

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