After two years of violence and bloodshed in Syria, countless lives have been lost and many families displaced.
Fierce fighting between rebel and regime forces in Syria have taken their toll, countless lives have been lost, and according to UNICEF 20 percent of Syrian schools have been razed to the ground leaving children without any opportunity to get an education.
Aleppo has witnessed some of the fiercest battles in the Syrian civil war and as the fighting continues the children face the terror of being maimed or killed, losing their families, going hungry or cold, and being displaced.
UNICEF estimates that in this district alone 300 schools have been damaged.
One brave teacher, Nour Al-Haq, is fighting her own war, determined to teach come what may.
She explained: “We wanted to reorganise this school for the kids of Salaheddine who are coming back to their own neighbourhoods. Families are coming back to their own houses. That is why we wanted to open this school here.
“The four biggest schools in Salaheddine have been bombarded. We will have to rely on schools like this one for many years. We are recovering books, and chairs from the damaged schools. We went to those schools even though we were targeted by a sniper who shot at us.”
Just three months after Nour had the idea for her project she had 45 other people working with her.
All the while, the bombing continues in Aleppo and anyone can be killed at any time.
“Being killed is a possibility. We cannot deny it. There is a percentage chance, maybe a 20 percent or 30 percent chance, that our schools will be bombed,” admitted Nour. “But we try not to think about it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to work,” she added.
Every day, almost 700 children aged between five and 11 go to one of the three schools organised by Nour.
Two of them are in abandoned school buildings. The third is in a residential building.
Describing how the children are taught in the new schools, Nour said: “Thanks to God, Praise be to God, we have developed new teaching methods. There are also changes like deleting the subject of “Nationalism”, and we have changed the history and geography curriculum. We’ve also added religious knowledge, Islam, the Quran, Recital of the Quran, Hadith and the Prophet’s life.”
Every day new children come to join the school. Attendance in this region is now the lowest in Syria, around six percent, according to UNICEF. The educational system in the country has been destroyed and on average children have lost two years of learning.
Hope for a lost generation
Learning World spoke to Maria Calivis, UNICEF’s Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa.
Learning World: “Mrs Calivis, you have just come back from Syria, so how do you assess the situation there for children? Particularly regarding their education?”
Calivis: “The situation is really very serious. Children account for 50 percent of all displaced families and there are also the children of all the families who have became refugees in neighbouring countries. As a result, children are suffering.
“In addition children miss out on education. We know that today in Syria at least 2,400 schools have been damaged, some have been destroyed, others are occupied by families who have been displaced.
“We know that in Aleppo only six percent of schools are functioning. In Idleb only 50 percent are functioning. This is very sad when we know that before the crisis Syria enjoyed a very high level of school enrollment.”
Learning World: “UNICEF recently published a report saying that Syria’s children risk becoming a lost generation. What does this mean exactly?”
Calivis: “Twenty-four months into the crisis means a lot for the growth of a child. Children have suffered from trauma, from a lot of stress from the conflict, from the loss of loved ones.
“In addition they have been displaced and some have ended up becoming refugees. This tends to undo what progress children may have made before, and their future looks bleak.”
Learning World: “How much money is needed for aid and education in Syria? UNICEF is short of funding, so does this mean you won’t be able to secure this aid?”
Calivis: “For education we need around 40 million dollars (31 million euros) in order to ensure that children, especially the most affected, have access to learning.
“It is crucial that in the coming months we mobilise at least five million dollars (3.9 million euros) to ensure immediate learning, which is giving children access to the available schooling.”