Conflict keeps children in camps for internally displaced people in northern Syria from getting an education — Global Issues
A teacher repurposes an ancient citadel into a school in northwest Syria. Photo: Sonia Al Ali/IPS
  • Sonia Al Ali (Idlib, Syria)
  • Inter Press Service

“I was unable to continue my education because the school was far from our home (in the camp), and we had to give up my dream and my mother’s dream of becoming a lawyer to defend the rights of oppressed people,” Al-Hussein told IPS.

according to Relief Web In northwest Syria, 3.4 million people are internally displaced, up from 2.9 million last year.

About two million of these people are living in tents in overcrowded camps that lack basic services and supplies after fleeing their homes due to conflict. The lack of schools and education facilities in these camps has led to thousands of children dropping out and increased rates of child labour and early marriage.

ReliefWeb estimates that 89 percent of children in northwest Syria are in need of protection assistance.

The right to education has been lost

Al-Hussein noted that the nearest school is about three kilometers away from his home, and acknowledged that around 40 other children living in the same camp have given up on going to school.

The boy told IPS that to help his father make ends meet in the face of poverty and rising prices, he traded his books and pens for construction equipment and began working on construction sites.

Salwa Al Matar, 13, who is taking refuge in the Kafr Yamr refugee camp in northern Idlib, is also out of school: Her dreams of completing her studies have been dashed as her school is far from the camp and there is no transport access.

“I was doing well in school, but after the evacuation, my father forbade me from going to school far away from where we lived because it was not safe,” she says sadly.

Al Matar points out that fathers see no benefit in educating their girls because all girls will eventually leave their parents, get married, take care of the house and raise children, and the responsibility for meeting their needs falls on the husband.

Fatima Al Yousef (33), a mother of four who fled from the city of Maarat Al Numan to Kafr refugee camp in northern Idlib, decided to send her children to school in a nearby area.

“Despite the school being far from where we live, it has not prevented our children from continuing their education.”

But her decision was not an easy one.

“We are facing financial strain and also problems with children getting sick in the winter because it is difficult for them to get to school due to cold and muddy roads.”

Yousef said his children’s school suffered from severe shortages of chairs, books and stationery, forcing his father to buy these items for his children at his own expense.

Education under the trees

But there are some grassroots efforts to get education facilities up and running again for children in IDP camps.

Sama Al Ali (31), a teacher who fled from Khan Sheikhoun to one of the refugee camps in Atma city on the border with Turkey, is volunteering to teach children in the camp.

“The situation of children who cannot read or write made me sad.”

Despite the lack of facilities, she is determined to ensure her children receive an education under the trees and in tents.

“The education sector in the camp is totally neglected. If we don’t work personally and teach the children letters and numbers, we will face an ignorant generation. That’s why I volunteered to teach the children for free. Sometimes I teach under a tree or in a tent so that the children can take their first steps in education.”

Al Ali points out that the tent schools have no blackboards or chairs, no stationery, notebooks or textbooks, and are cold in winter because there is no heating.

Education in an ancient fortress

An ancient citadel in northern Syria is no longer the destination it should be for visitors and witnesses to ancient civilizations: parts of it are now being repurposed as informal schools.

Najla Maamar (40), a teacher who fled from the city of Maarat al-Numan in the southern countryside of Idlib to a camp in the town of Deir Hassan in northern Idlib, used simple means to transform an ancient citadel into a school.

“Many of Idlib’s displaced children are not in school and their fate is ignorant, which threatens their future. So I decided to use and restore an ancient historical citadel near my house and turn it into an education center for the children of the area,” Maamar said.

“Due to poverty, poor financial situation and high rents, I was unable to rent a well-equipped place to teach the children. So I decided to invest in an ancient fort and equip it with minimal costs. With the help of volunteer teachers, I took in students who had dropped out of school, supported them with remedial classes and helped them rejoin the classes they had missed.”

Maamar restored the ground at the site, made it suitable for education by covering the walls with curtains and a plastic roof (for sun protection and insulation), and provided chairs for the children and a writing board.

Meanwhile, teacher Nahla Hallaq (25) was volunteering to teach children inside the citadel.

“Children out of school is a tragic reality, an unknown future awaits them, ill-equipped to face life’s challenges and ill-equipped to build their country and repair the destruction wrought by war.”

Schools provide children with a sense of normalcy even in difficult circumstances.

“Children’s education is paramount for their future, which is why, with our limited possibilities, we are trying to provide education to around 70 displaced children living in the camp and who lack the minimum requirements and necessities to lead a decent life.”

Hallak said the effects of the war have worsened the education situation in Idlib. Most schools are overcrowded, dilapidated and on the verge of collapse, and lack basic services such as water, electricity and ventilation that would provide students with a stable and safe learning environment. Problems also arise from a shortage of teachers and educational supplies.

Hallaq called on education leaders in northwest Syria to raise awareness among parents about the importance of education, especially for girls, and to help families meet their needs by providing jobs.

The idea of ​​an education fortress, where her children and those in the camp could get an education, inspired Farida Al-Taha, 40, who was forced to flee the rural town of Tarmenes in southern Idlib for the Deir Hassan refugee camp.

“I live in the camp with my husband and three children in harsh conditions, lacking even the most basic necessities of life.”

She points out that although her children were unable to attend school because there were no schools nearby and no transportation, she found a ray of hope in this simple center where her children and others at the camp could learn the basics of reading and writing.

Al-Taha said poverty affects the success of this initiative because some students who want to attend school may not have the money to buy stationery and uniforms, and education centers lack heating.

“Where are the most basic rights of our children who have suffered so much in the hell of war?”

More than 2.2 million children are out of school in Syria, including over 340,000 in the northwest and 80,000 in the camps. The Syria Response Team Coordinator said earlier this year that the high dropout rates were due to child labour forced into helping families survive, early marriages and the distance between home and school.

The statement noted that attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia have destroyed 870 schools over the past three years, rendering them unusable.

More than 67 percent of the 991 displaced people camps, home to more than two million people, have no education facilities or schools, forcing children to travel long distances in all weather conditions to receive an education.

Military attacks have killed more than 55 teachers and displaced hundreds in the past three years, leaving about 45 percent of schools with a teacher shortage.

IPS United Nations Secretariat Report


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© Inter Press Services (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service

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