After the revolution, Syrian citizens have lost their faith in the government’s establishments, in correspondence with the deteriorating services, a sufficient number of staff members quitting them and the lacking censorship over increasing corruption. Abandoning the public sector was an advantage for the private sector, which attracted people in the different fields of life, including schools and hospitals. In general, it wasn’t choice which made Syrians turn to the private sector; it was necessity. When quality services are limited to wealthy people, attraction to the private sector can’t be a proof of its efficiency; rather, it tells a lot about the staggering public sector.
“In the beginning of the school last year, we decided to move Obeida to one of the best private schools in Hama [a city in west-central Syria], after I noticed that his educational situation was dropping compared to that in the year before. The payments are expensive, and we aren’t rich. I asked my brother, based in the Gulf region, for help. I and his father agreed that we would minimize our expenses relating to everything except education,” Obeida’s mother says, about her son’s experience in receiving education in a private institution.
Only the Half of the Curriculum
|Determining the tuition fees of the private educational institutions follows the provisions of Article 37 of the Executive Instructions of Legislative Decree No.55 of 2004 — Private institutions must inform parents of payments’ details prior to registration, specifying the annual increase allowed for each category according to the governorate the institution operates under, as well as annual tuition fees.
In Homs Governorate, for example, the Directorate of Education decided that: If the enrollment fee is less than 10 thousand Syrian Liras, the allowed increase is 100 percent; if the fee ranges from 10 to 30 thousand, the allowed increase is 75 percent; if the fee ranges from 30 to 60 thousand, the allowed increase is 50 percent and 25 percent for fee ranging from 60 to 100 thousand. In case that the payment exceeds the 100 thousand, the directorate allows an increase of 15 percent only.
Prior to the revolution, private schools didn’t make much of an option, Obeida’s mother said. “We were never forced to think of that option with [Obeida’s] siblings. Public schools were more committed. His siblings received a good education, and they never needed private lessons or enhancement courses. However, Obeida’s situation is different. In schools, they are giving children only the half of the curriculum, teachers aren’t that professional and it’s rare to find a certain teacher, whose specialty is the subject he or she is teaching.”
Teaching French as a second foreign language in the seventh-grade curriculum was a catalyst for moving her son to a private school, she added. “At home, none of us knows French, which requires hiring a private teacher. After calculating the costs of getting a private teacher for a whole year, we found that a private school is a suitable solution in comparison. [My son] was lucky for being accepted in a school, which usually doesn’t take all the applying students.”
A Materialistic Treatment
Going to a private school wasn’t the way the family expected it to be for his educational situation wasn’t improved as desired. Nonetheless, the family decided to try for another year. “Despite the high costs, that the results weren’t impressive and the feeling that the school’s treatment was materialistic in the first place, I and his father decided to continue sending him to the private school to prepare him well for the ninth grade, and then for high school,” Obeida’s mother said.
With the beginning of Obeida’s second school year at the private school, problems started to face the family; the mother says “When my husband went to give the school the second fee payment, he was surprised that the fee was 50 thousand Syrian Liras higher compared with that of the former year. No one told him about this upon signing the enrolment papers and paying the deposit.”
20 Thousand Syrian Liras for Books Only!
In addition to the tuition fee, about 200 thousand Syrian Liras, there were other payments, including transportation, books, journeys and the school’s uniform. “Last year, the uniform was not a demand. This year, the school decided to oblige students with its own uniform, which can’t be found on the markets and costs about 40 thousand, apart from the payments which have been increased. The books cost 20 thousand though they are similar to the books sold by the State for 5 thousand,” she said.
Obeida’s family resented the materialistic treatment of an establishment, where supposedly value should first be placed on education, not money. “Public education is bad; private education is materialistic, and sometimes it doesn’t correspond to the costs we are paying. Between this and that, generations are being lost. We aren’t sure if we are going to continue sending Obeida to the private school the next year because of its high costs and the lacking quality education,” the mother said.
In addition to working for a computers center, Rami (a pseudonym name for an engineer from the city of Homs) has been seeking to work as a math teacher in one of the city’s private schools but was surprised by the unfair conditions of the work. “The school owner’s conditions included that the teacher mustn’t work for another educational institution and mustn’t give private lessons or courses in any other place apart from his school. If we ignored these conditions, we can’t ignore the one saying that the teacher mustn’t have any other job, even if it’s not related to education as you can’t be satisfied with only one job to secure life’s requirements these days,” he explained.
People’s turning to private schools, Rami said, is not an indicator for their quality education or the student’s wealth. “Most of the time, registration in private schools is an escape from the bad situation which public schools have reached on all levels, educational and relating to bringing students up. Many mothers insist on registering their children in private schools to show off or out of jealousy from other people’s children, considering that no one is better than their children.”
A Private Hospital
A public hospital was not an option for Samir when he learned of the long-awaited news of his wife’s pregnancy last year. “Basically, we didn’t consider the idea of a public hospital because of its bad reputation and since a [person’s] health and sickness aren’t matters to gamble with. So we looked for the best hospital in Homs; we also committed to visiting a famous doctor in the same hospital, who told us in the ninth month that a cesarean section must be performed for a normal delivery was difficult.”
Low Hemoglobin Count
Mona, Samir’s wife, performed prenatal tests, and all of them were within the normal limits. “After nine months of waiting, Mona gave birth to our first child, and we returned home three after we left it as two. However, Mona’s health was deteriorating. Her color continued to go pale and yellow, which her pharmacist sister had noticed. She pointed out that blood tests should be done to detect the cause of yellowing,” Samir said.
Samir’s wife returned to the hospital for the test, and the results were surprising. “Mona’s hemoglobin was dangerously low. After being 12.5 before birth, it was 4.5 after that, which necessitated her urgent need for nutritional solutions and iron,” he said.
Where is the Doctor?
Samir went to see the doctor who supervised Muna’s case during pregnancy and childbirth, but the doctor refused to receive him. “Although I am in a private hospital and the treatment is supposed to be better, the doctor completely refused to take responsibility and refused to meet me when I asked why my wife’s health deteriorated. I tried to see him three times, and every time the secretary told me that, he wasn’t there. The nurse refused to give her serum before I went to the accountant and paid in advance, even though my wife was a customer throughout her pregnancy.”