Dom and Abdal Education in Turkey: The Cases of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa


We are handling the fundamental right to education as a right that puts to its centre the localities beyond just being a universal construct. Therefore, we consider that the circumstance of being devoid of the right to education is not independent of the aforementioned perspectives due to the present education approach’s concern for being ‘universal’. While we recognize the significant role of rights in making visible the unheard and unseen individuals, we have reservations regarding the discussion of such in an out-of-context and separate from values within a rights-based approach because rights should be means rather than icons. Revealing what the present education applications coincide / not coincide with within the lives of families and children while attempting to comprehend who are unable to exercise their rights to education and the reasons for the same will be important at this very point. This approach that constitutes the basis of our design of families and children as the subjects of our study will be detailed throughout the methodology discussion of the study and will aim to render visible the values and needs of Dom and Abdal children in Turkey.

And it will do so by attempting to answer the questions below:

  1. What kind of course does children’s access to education have on the axis of enrolment, attendance and participation to education processes?
  2. What are the reasons for non-attendance and (non-)participation to education that persist within the current situation?
  3. What kind of routes could be considered for ensuring access of children to education and access of education to these children?

Within the scope of the small scale field study we carried out in Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa in order to open up a discussion space in regard to the present education status of the Dom and Abdal people of Turkey and Syria origins, we attempted to comprehend the processes of children’s inclusion/non İnclusion into education and the reasons of their present non-attendance and school drop-out circumstances.

The reasons why no child who regularly attends school and participates in all educational activities could be observed were listed as follows in the context of the field study;

“Families Economic Conditions / States of Poverty”

Dom and Abdal families who are peripatetic / craftsman communities are unable to make their traditional jobs under the conditions brought by our day due to the changing socio-economic, cultural and social conditions. In our day, the families dominantly work in informal jobs such as scrap collector, paper collector, seasonal agriculture worker, peddler, tasbih (prayer bead) seller, or again as scrap collector or paper collector after seasonal migration to other provinces. The irregular work hours and lack of regular income for whom the needs of livelihood take precedence over education cause challenges in accessing an institution such as school which has regularity at its core and leads to a significant obstacle against children’s access to education.

“Traditional and Cultural Codes”

The disbelief for the possibility of gaining a profession by going to school among the families also defined the relationship formed with education within the communities. The dominance of the opinion that the children are not intelligent enough within the expressions of the communities regarding why the children will not be schooled squeezes the relationship formed between the child and the school into a narrow framework from the very beginning.

“The Situation at School”

Within the general look into the failure to school Dom and Abdal children that was expressed usually as “our deep wound” by the school administrators and teachers, the low level of school enrolment, and the high level of school drop-outs and non-attendance seen among Dom and Abdal children were the prominent subjects during the school interviews. The economic conditions of the families was expressed to be the main reason why the school enrolment rates are low and non-attendance rates are high. Furthermore, the discriminative discourses on the lifestyle, culture and ethnicity of the Dom and Abdal peoples come out as a reason that obstructs the children’ access to education. Therefore, if the economic conditions of these families are not secured, if the information taught in schools are accepted to be generated for all children throughout the world, if the participation and representation of Dom and Abdal children are not included in the curriculum and practices, and if the national / international education policies and practices are not shaped in consideration of localities, the conventions the country is party to will be void.

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“Being educated is a distant dream to us.” Dom and Abdal Children’s Education in Turkey: The Cases of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa