Education in Northern Syria as Spotted by “I Am the Future” Campaign
“I am the Future” campaign, organized by the “Youth for Changing” organization, finished its activities in northern Syria after two months of work that sought to analyze the social reality in a number of towns and villages and to propose solutions for the prevailing problems. The campaign, at the end, managed to reach a set of recommendations, which it directed to concerned entities, on top of which are officials in the field of education.
The campaign targeted the community in five areas: Khan al-Asal, Atarib, Marat al-Nu’man, the city of Idlib and the village of Kafrsajna.
The campaign started in November 2017 and ended on Tuesday, January 23, with a closing ceremony, through which its results have been presented according to the campaigns Coordinator Ali Hallak. He told Enab Baladi that the campaign’s members worked according to a specific strategy, based on “the evaluation of reality, analyzing the problem, proposing solutions and assigning roles to reach the phase of implementation.”
The campaign also resorted to the two strategies of listening and communication between the officials of the educational process, the parents of the students and the social surrounding, according to Hallak, who explained that the campaign included workshops and open discussions, in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Education, its directorates, local councils, organizations, institutes and teachers.
Social Evaluation in Five Areas
Enab Baladi managed to get a version of the campaign’s outputs and the evaluation of the status quo in the targeted areas, which showed a discrepancy in the reasons which led students, from different educational stages, to drop out school.
In Khan al-Asal, different reasons, on top of which are poverty, child labor, recruitment and the weak transportation, in addition to the passive position of some of the local councils, the security situation, absent internationally recognized certificates, family’s ignorance and early marriage, were detected.
What deepened the situation is the insufficient number of the educational staff, irregular courses, misuse of social media platforms, the gap between the different schools, as well as the repeated interruption in the educational process and absent interest in the teachers and their situation.
These reasons were common in most of the targeted areas, along with other reasons that arose from each specific area. In Atarib, for instance, reasons such as, the loss of the breadwinner, recruitment, the focus on supporting elementary education alone, displacement, the fragmentation of the colleges, reciprocal violence between students and teachers, polarization between the “Interim” and the “Salvation” Governments, were spotted.
In Idlib, a rising percentage of dropouts has been documented in elementary schools and a lack of awareness to the importance of scientific pursuits among families has been registered, in addition to the poor educational efficiency and the intervention of the armed factions in the educational process, along with the prevalence of “high cost of living and extremism” and the multiplicity of responsible parties without unifying the educational goal, according to the campaigns’ outputs.
In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, Maarrat al-Nu’man has been suffering from the absence of UN’s support, weak censorship and curricula, the multiplicity of authorities and the confrontations that reigned their relations, as well as unavailability of educational establishments.
At the same time, the community and educational establishments’ weak follow up of the educational process has been documented in Kafrsajna, backed with different opinions of curricula, female harassments and fraud certificates.
The Campaign’s Activities
The campaign has organized five workshops for the concerned parties, which were attended by 200 people according to the campaign’s coordinator. It also organized five other workshops for 100 of the students’ parents.
Fifteen workshops, for 30 days, involved 1500 female and male students, as well as their parents; the campaign also included 41 working days, 100 field visits to targeted cases and the distribution of awareness posters to 10 thousand targeted people.
The campaign’s efforts have resulted in the return of 30 dropouts to school out of 300 targeted students, in addition to the integration of the displaced students into the host community and signing undertakings by the students’ parents, in which they pledged to allow their children to continue their education, according to Hallak.
The campaign’s coordinator spoke of a number of recommendations, including teachers’ welfare, coordination between the directorate of education and the awareness seminars, demand for attracting investments to support the education sector, in cooperation with the directorate, the councils and the schools, the activation of the community’s resources to fund education, in addition to the need to allocate programs for the support and integration of people with disabilities.
The campaign also necessitated understanding education’s status quo in the camps and suggested the initiation of new schools, as well as the need to commit to a correct educational plan and the use of modern educational tools. In addition to this, the campaign shed the light on the importance of issuing statistics about the students’ numbers and motivating those who are studying and working at the same time, through networking with the concerned entities.
As for the challenges that hindered the campaign’s performance, Hallak mentioned shelling and displacement in rural Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, some of the family’s passivity and the difficulty of training female students.
Enab Baladi interviewed a number of the people who were targeted by the campaign; some of them said that the training workshops triggered positive reaction among students and the benefits were clear. However, the campaign itself is not enough, for the students’ will also plays a role in their ability to overcome detachment from schools and enhance their desire to pursue their education.
Ali Haj Jasem, is a father of two school dropouts, the first of whom joined in the fight and the second never went to school, said that the campaign formed some sort of a trigger for his two sons, “I noticed their determination to go back to school and get a degree.”
The father of the two students would like to have similar workshops in a constant manner to conduct other training courses that involve the students’ parents “to introduce the best approaches which parents should follow upon dealing with their student children.”
The campaign’s staff members aspire to repeat the initiative in other areas, according to Hallak, who said that there is not a clear schedule so far.