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Euro help for primaries

TURKEY

TURKEY - still struggling with the after-effects of August's earthquake - is to receive a 100 million (pound;70m) grant to raise the standards of its primary education.

The money is being paid through a European Commission programme, designed to boost the economies of Middle East and north African countries, particularly by helping to create social services considered essential in the west. Turkey is educationally 50 years behind the UK - secondary schooling did not become compulsory until 1997.

Necmi Hasturk, a spokesman for the Turkish embassy in London, said the money would be welcome in cities unable to cope with an influx of rural populations. He said: "There are shanty towns around the cities without proper services." Where schools exist, he said, classes are often crowded with 50 children.

The grant will be spent in 12 of Turkey's most disadvantaged provinces. Most are in the east, including the southern zones where services have been disrupted by the military crackdown on Kurdish forces in addition to the earthquake.

The grant will help fund better training for administrators and teachers in new training centres. It will also pay for the renovation of more than 1,000 primaries, equipment for 2,000 more and 24 mobile schools for isolated communities.

The idea of the grant, said an EC report, is to provide education for children often excluded from effective primary education, especially girls, who have low literacy rates.

It aims to develop "educational options for migrants and excluded groups: street children, children who work, illiterate young people and adults (especially women) and young offenders".

A key goal of the project is to enable Turkey to become a serious candidate for entry to the European Union, a long-standing desire of the Ankara government.

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