For more than three years, children of the city of Jarabulus, north of Aleppo, have been deprived of exercising their right to receive formal education when the area was under the control of the “Islamic State”.
With the control of the area by the “Free Army”, which is supported by Turkish troops as part of the Operation “Euphrates Shield” in late August 2016, the educational process went back to its normal pace. But it was currently limited to the primary level with “an adjusted” Syrian curriculum and Turkish supervision.
About five months ago, schools started to gradually reestablish their normal activities and opened in the city center and its countryside to receive thousands of students. It was in cooperation with the Turkish Ministry of Education, and the collaboration with the local council and the Ministry of Education in the interim government, in addition to the contributions and the help of Turkish associations and organizations.
And considering it a model of what is expected to happen in northern Aleppo, “Enab Baladi” is trying to present a comprehensive picture of the essence of the educational process in Jarabulusin terms of curriculum, available and eligible schools and the available educational levels. in addition to the financial funding source that such a critical and critical learning process may require, as well as its impact on the independence or dependence of education.
Many questions preoccupy Syrian activists and officials in the educational process related to the curricula in the region, supervisors, whether the process of education is random or organized, and whether the Turkish government interferes inthe curriculum.
The experience in Jarabulus is viewed with caution since it could prevail in the rest of the northern cities of Aleppo, which Ankara attempts to maintain it a “safe area.”
Ramadhan Mustafa, director of “Sadiq al-Hindawi” School in the city of Jarabulus, explained to “Enab Baladi” that the Syrian interim government’s curriculum is currently being taught in schools, whether in the countryside or the city center. He points out that it is the curriculum of the Syrian regime itself, but with some modifications, such as the removal of images and concepts related to it, in addition to the preservation of scientific information as they are.
The director added that the curriculum had just arrived so as to be adopted in the schools of the region. This was confirmed by Badr Kajak, director of the media office in Jarabulus, as the approach of the interim government reached a few days ago, “Ahmed Salim Mulla,” school, that is also located in the city.
Kajak has recently worked on a lengthy report on education in the region, where he met school officials and parents.
Education “as needed” … Turkey intervenes.
Until recently, education depended directly on the teacher’s efforts, who directs the students’ teaching of following their needs or according to what is believed to be lacking.
Derelection was sweeping over the educational institutions, and it was evident by the competent authorities supervising the educational process in Jarabulus, during the the former local council period, which changed days ago according to Badr Kajak.
At the beginning of March, the new local council was elected in the presence of representatives of the Syrian interim government and representatives of the main opposition factions. And it occurred after the factions of the “Free Army” of the security establishment agreed last month to dissolve the former local council because of its decision to ban teachers from wearing the veil in schools.
The issue of “banning the niqab” sparked angry reactions making activists demonstrateagainst the former council and leading to the Council’s accusations of belonging to the “Sultan Murad” faction of the “Free Army”.
The new council is seen as the first experience of “competencies” in the region, since it consists of 20 members, including doctors, engineers and jurists, and all of them are university graduates.
The former “dereliction” may be due to the newness of the educational process and the lack ofsufficient expertise, after a break of almost three years. But the question that arises is: Will the educational process continue on this pattern or change in the coming days?
Turkey Intervenes By ” “Al-Maaref” Strategy.
As for the inquiries about the direct intervention of Turkey in the Syrian educational curriculum, Ramadan Mustafa, director of “Sadiq al-Hindawi” school, denied any relationship between Turkey’s intervention and the educational curriculum, as some believe. He pointed out that Turkey’s supervision is restricted to providing technical and material support and perhaps strategic help as well.
Enab Baladi interviewed Mohamed Amin Aslan, the representative of the Turkish “Al-Maaref” strategy in Gaziantep and is the person in charge of the Syrian region. He said that the Turkish government is responsible for administrating the educational phase in Jarabulus, in cooperation with the concerned authorities in the state.
”Al-Maaref” is an official educational strategy of the Turkish government, founded by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inorder to provide technical and strategic support for the educational process. The strategy is not a help endowment one as Aslan described it.
Four Thousand Students in Four Schools.
In the city, there are about four thousand students in primary education. They are distributed into four schools that were progressively opened five months ago, according to the director of “Sadiq al-Hindawi” school. He confirmed also that there are at least 1000 students in his school, in which three thousand students enrolled in when it opened for the first time.
Three months ago, “Ahmed Salim Al-Mala” school opened, and then Tishreen School. Afterwards, Adnan Fawzi Al-Assis School opened about a month and a half ago, while there are about 35 schools in Jarabulus’ countryside.
Mustafa pointed out that, in each school, there are at least about one thousand students, except “Al-Osais” school which contains approximately 450. However, statistics remain inaccurate, especially those of the countryside, due to the absence of an official body to count them.
Added to that, there are no official statistics about exact the number of citizens who currently live in the region. Nonetheless, in November 2016, Fatma Şahin, the Mayor of Gaziantep, estimated that there were about 30,000 Syrians who came back to Jarabulus after its “liberation”.
What about the Camps?
“Enab Baladi” tried to get information about the camp students in Jarabulus and its surroundings, after a massive movement to the area that became relatively “safe” from bombing.
Ramadan Mustafa, director of “Sadiq al-Hindawi” School, accompanied an educational delegation from the Turkish Ministry of Education from Gaziantep to visit camp schools in Jarabulus, most notably the “Tishreen” school. The delegation asked to send special organizations to the citizens to raise awareness of the need to register their children, emphasizing their responsiveness.
“Ambiguity” about theFate of theMiddle and the Secondary Schools.
During the preparation of the investigation, “Enab Baladi” noted the absence of middle and secondary schools from the city. According to a statement by Syrian educational parties and Turkish officials, teaching is limited to primary school students, although students from both levels need schools to cultivate them.
Ramadan Mustafa explained that the educational level is limited to the primary phase, stressing that they, as educational bodies, asked the responsible Turkish delegations about it, but they responded briefly that the discussion of this matter is left to a later time.
The director also pointed out that “ambiguity” surrounds the issue and that the main reason may be the shortage in the number of buildings available to provide education for the preparatory and secondary levels.
A military Headquarters and a Hospital Instead of a School
The Chief Information Officer, Badr Kajak, confirmed the absence of middle and high schools noting that there were two buildings dedicated to teach these two educational stages. One of them has been transformed into a hospital, whereas the other has been used as a headquarters of one the “Free Army” factions.
Kajak added that the former Local Council’s Director of Educationtold him that the faction refused to leave the building despite repeated demands.
The Prospected September
The Education Officer in charge of the Turkish “Al-Maaref” Stratey, Muhamed Amine Aslan, insisted that the war in Syria made the buildings inappropriate for education and ruined the region’s infrastructure. he pointed out also that the focus is currently limited to the primary level, which is considered the most important one.
He added that Turkey is excogitate and working to open all the necessary schools in north Syria, within the framework of the “Euphrates Shield” operation, whether in Jarabulus, al-Bab or the other concerned areas, by the beginning of the new academic year in September.
Qualified Teachers or “Nepotism”
Local sources in Jarabulus stated that the city lacks qualified and specialized instructors to teach and that they are afraid of the future of their children’s education, especially after the long break.
Enab Baladi interviewed the director, Ramadan Mostafa, who pointed out that about 1200 teachers have submitted their candidatures for the new academic year. Most of these candidates are university graduates and students whose graduation remained stuck either because they were chased by the Syrian regime or the war displaced them from their hometowns.
He also affirmed that at least half of these candidates have been appointed, especially those who have a prior teaching experience. He added that now each school contains between 15 and 20 teachers, while the countryside schools include three to five teachers each.
However, Chief Information Officer, Kajak, objected the teachers’ appointment and saying that most of them are unqualified and had not completed their high school education. He also claimed that their appointment was based on the “Nepotism” principal prevailing in the region.
Kajak hopes for a comprehensive change on the part of the newly elected Local Council, which will be responsible for the supervision of the educational process.
Does Funding Affect the Curriculum?
An operation as massive as this necessitates a State to fund and sponsor it, especially with the lack of the infrastructure in Syria. It may seem evident that Turkey, which started the “Euphrates Shield” operation, is the main supervisor and sponsor of the current educational phase, but how?
The sources interviewed by Enab Baladi affirmed that Turkey is managing the current educational process in Jarabulus and the rest of regions in north Syria under the supervision of Gaziantep, the governor of Jarabulus, and in coordination with its Education Directorate, the Ministry of Education in the interim government and the Local Council’s Directorate of Education.
The Turkish “Al-Maaref” strategy is considered the main coordinator between the two sides of this process in the Syrian territories, in collaboration with the Turkish official authorities.
A Concrete and Material Funding
Mohamed Amine Aslan, Al-Waqf director in Syria, stated that “the mission of the whole institution is to cater for the Syrian children’s needs and meet this phase’s requirements”. “These are not only aids, but also a humanitarian duty required by neighbors’ rights,”he explained.
Turkey’s financial support takes a concrete form so a to meet the students and schools’ needs. It provided them with stationeries, books, notebooks, pencils, etc., in addition to the technical support that includes schools maintenance and the insurance of all the necessary requirements and equipment.
In addition to the concrete support, Aslan explained that Al-Waqf is providing monthly stipends for teachers, since the opening of schools, ie. five months ago.
“Sadiq al-Hindawi” prep-school’s director affirmed that the “Al-Maaref” strategy will take care of the educational process in Jarabulus city, specifically in financial terms.
Moreover, Mustafa pointed out that the financial support provided by Al-Waqf is considered a non-binding monthly “granting”, as “there are no official contracts between them and the teachers.”
On the other hand, Kajak talked about a different side as, based on teachers’ statements, he found that they received grants for just three months. He explained explaining that the amount was about 1000 Turkish Liras for the first month and 500 liras for the other two months, whereas they did not receive anything recently.
Al-Waqf is Hand Paying
Enab Baladi tried to inquire about the truthfulness of this statement and found out, from a source inside the “Al-Maaref” Waqf who refused to reveal his name, that salaries are paid each month since the first day and in coordination with the city’s Local Council.
Aslan stated that this claim was incorrect confirming that he personally hand pays the salaries each month to teachers and gets their signatures. In addition, he asked Enab Baladi to provide him with the name of the teacher, who did not receive his salary, to search his signature and show it to the newspaper.
Other sources told Enab Baladi that other organizations are also contributing in the educational process, such as “IHH”: the Humanitarian Relief Foundation and “Alkdar”. In addition to the educational support, they are providing students and schools with concrete aids and also organizing special interactive activities.
At the end of his statement, Ramadan Mustafa pointed out that they are studying the possibility of forming an “educational camp” with the Turkish delegations, in order to manage the educational process, supervise schools’ needs and be directly linked to the Local Council, to which schools present their needs’ list following the standars.
Since the beginning of the “Euphrates Shield” operation, North Aleppo witnessed several attempts to restore the civilian activity, with the rehabilitation of some schools, municipalities and hospitals and the return of judiciary and free police. It has become an experience worth depending on the success of its institutions since they are considered as evidence of the ability of the free army’s liberated areas to promote themselves, in case the Syrian regime stops targeting them.