MARDIN, Turkey – It is 7am and no cafes or shops are open in the old historic centre of Mardin, a little city on the southeastern Turkish-Syrian border. There are small children waiting on a street corner for the bus coming to pick them up.
The driver speaks Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish – something that is quite common in a region of old Mesopotamia, which has been a base for different ethnicities for centuries. He drives down roads filled with new, modern buildings, towards a neighbourhood still dominated by old stone houses. These areas were uninhabited for almost 20 years, but were recently become crowded as thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s devastating civil war seek shelter there.
After almost 20 minutes, the bus stops in the middle of a desolated area. It is 8am, and a school bell starts ringing. Around 300 children are shouting and running are heading to class, some ask teachers where to go, others remain in the halls, playing with their friends. Many are already sitting diligently in the classroom, eager for the lesson to start. The mood, like in any other school, is expectant, but it soon becomes clear that this school faces a special situation.