Thu 17 Jan 2019

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Eastern Ghouta’s Schools Staffless

Eastern Ghouta’s preparatory school exams, held at the makeshift housing center in al-Horjelah – May 13, 2018 (SANA)

Eastern Ghouta’s preparatory school exams, held at the makeshift housing center in al-Horjelah – May 13, 2018 (SANA)

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Nine months have passed since the Assad’s force came into full control of the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta, which “settlement,” legalization of status, deals facilitated.

For the whole duration, the area did not witness any kind of “serious” action on the part of the Syrian regime in relation to services, neither those needed by the area’s people daily, public facilities nor infrastructure, damaged massively due to aerial shelling.

Among the destroyed utilities are schools, which were repeatedly closed due to daily shelling, to suffer various additional problems today, the most prominent of which is the lacking educational staff at a time where students are preparing for exams.

Enab Baladi monitored the schools’ status in Eastern Ghouta, interviewing many of the student’s families, which complained about lacking or replaced staffs, considering that “in the area, the schools are not the same anymore.”

Mohammad, a pseudonym, Arabic language teacher, told Enab Baladi that the shortage in educational staffs results from the pressure imposed on many of Ghouta’s teachers, explaining: “The teachers have to work at schools in winter and summer; they also should undergo training courses on how to teach the new curricula, in addition to the salary cuts.”

He added that the salaries of teachers are the lowest among state employees, “a full-time teacher receives about 40 thousand Syrian pounds per month, which prompted some teachers to leave their profession and resort to administrative, commercial and industrial jobs.”

As he stayed in Ghouta, Mohammed opened a home accessories showroom and was forced to abandon education, as he said, in order to earn higher income due to poor economic conditions in the area.

He pointed to other reasons to the lack of educational staffs, including a number of teachers’ refrain from teaching because of compulsory military service or their names being included in the reservists’ lists.

Most the teachers and principals in Ghouta, who previously worked under the “Free Directorate of Education,” were a target for arrest and dismissal, some of whom were prevented from teaching permanently.

Teacher Mohammad’s statement is identical to what teacher Samira, (pseudonym), was faced with, for she was dismissed from the Ministry of Education “on charges of working with terrorists.”

She was arrested for 15 days after the Assad’s forces took over Ghouta, as she worked as principal of a primary school during the siege, Samira told Enab Baladi.

A New Method of Education

Via “Whats-app,” Enab Baladi communicated with “Abu Ali,” a teacher in Eastern Ghouta, he said that the Ministry of Education integrated the curriculum of different grades and offered it to the students who could not continue their education in the shadow of the war.

This is due to the lack of staffs and the interruption of many students’ education during the years of siege and shelling, he added.

According to the teacher, who teaches religion at a preparatory school, “the curriculum of primary and middle school students merged together, and the Ministry conducted compressed courses for students who stayed in Eastern Ghouta.”

“The ministry teaches it to two consecutive grades, giving general information, and then the students receive materials important for subsequent years, such as Arabic, mathematics and science, that is, they focus on the basic rules in each subject,” the teacher explained the method of teaching the curriculum.

“Instead of studying the subjects of a certain grade, students study the materials of two grades together, to compensate for years of education they missed during the war.”

In addition to this, there is a two-month summer course, aiming at boosting the students’, who left school, level of education, so they are able to pass to the next grade. For example, students at seventh grade, who according to their age must be at eighth or ninth grade, attend these courses to overcome a missed year of classes, according to the teacher.

Parents Are Helpless

The students’ parents cannot change the reality imposed on their children. They are confined to Eastern Ghouta, and it is difficult to enroll them at Damascus’ schools due to distance and obstacles posed by the Syrian regime’s barriers.

“Um Radwan,” has a child in the eighth grade, told Enab Baladi that the exams are close, and her son did not receive any English lessons.

“The disaster lies in the fact that the questions are provided by the Ministry, how should students answer questions while they received no English lessons since the beginning of the year,” she added.

The Ministry of Education set the date of exams on December 16 to end on 27th of the same month.

Lack of Graduates

To Damascus, the capital, a student at Ibn Zaydun school in al-Mujtahid area expressed his displeasure at the lack of mathematics teachers, while interviewing his mother in his presence.

“Frequent changes in staff made students complain about the different ways of teaching,” she said.

Teacher Sawsan, pseudonym, believes that shortage of educational staff is not limited to Eastern Ghouta, as it is the dilemma of several schools in Damascus.

“The Ministry of Education did not announce the graduation of new batches of the trained teachers, which has contributed to the students’ low educational level due to the shortage in most schools, especially teachers of English and French,” Sawsan, a science teacher, told Enab Baladi.

In September, the local newspaper Al Ayam, Days, addressed the problem of the lacking educational staffs at Damascus and its countryside’s schools, in addition to the large numbers of students within the same classroom.

The newspaper quoted Maher Faraj, director of the Rural Damascus Educational Directorate, as saying that in the countryside of Damascus 106 schools are out of service and need to be fully reconstructed, and 104 other schools are partially damaged, some of which have been renovated and are being rehabilitated.

“Now, we are conducting checks to come up with an integral maintenance plan,” he said.

Based on the above, the shortage on educational staff is beyond the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta, as it is happening in Damascus as well. However, what is inflating the suffering of the first is the massive destruction inflected upon the schools and the lacking school supplies, especially desks, backed by the poor service reality and the deep changes in the area, which relate to the educational methods on the one hand and the offered funding on the other, which, in former years, international organizations were providing prior to the Assad’s forces control of the area.

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