Wed 13 Nov 2019

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Campaign to save education in northwestern Syria

Children looking at their school, destroyed as a result of bombardment in the city of Binnish - 27 September 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Children looking at their school, destroyed as a result of bombardment in the city of Binnish - 27 September 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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Half a million students, and thousands of teachers in 1255 schools in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia, are threatened with a breakdown in the educational system. Some voluntary efforts are attempting to mitigate this scenario.

Nearly 50 journalists came together in mid-October to establish the Syrian Media Forum (SMF) in northwestern Syria. The forum aims to shed light on the difficult conditions facing education in the region through a wide-ranging media campaign that started on Sunday 27 October.

Ibrahim al-Khatib, a member of the SMF, told Enab Baladi that the situation of education is catastrophic. Al-Khatib said that data collected by the forum, showed that financial support had stopped for 7,200 teachers in Idlib, 3500 in Aleppo, and about 1,000 in Latakia. The forum held vigils at the education directorates and called on the European Union to resume its funding for educational activities. The EU funding, implemented by Chemonics, covered more than 65 per cent of the teacher’s salaries.

Funding cuts to the educational sector coincided with further pressure caused by the influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) coming from the southern countryside of Idlib and northern countryside of Hama as a result of the military campaign carried out by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces since last February.

Data from the Directorate of Education in Idlib, shows that more than 130,000 students were displaced while more than 115 schools were destroyed during the military campaign, according to statistics compiled by the Response Coordination Group (RCG). Al-Khatib said that the educational institutions in the area lack equipment and heating fuel. Moreover, according to al-Khatib, schools had not received support for four months before the suspension was announced.

The educational sector in the region is facing a multitude of challenges. An estimated half a million children are dropping out of schools. Moreover, qualified teachers are leaving from region towards the towns of Afrin and Azaz for the salary guarantees provided by Turkey.

Even before the current crisis, the support offered to schools in the region was insufficient, al-Khatib said. In the past year, there were demands for the provision of psychosocial support for students in the region. Al-Khatib indicated that “in such a difficult situation, humanitarian and international organizations, especially the United Nations, should have paid particular attention to this reality.”

Campaign activities

The committees of the SMF, including all people from various agencies, independent media and journalists–worked on preparing campaign materials. These materials were published at 7 pm on the day of the campaign, through social media platforms. Al-Khatib pointed out that the media team prepared videos and infographics, highlighting the plight of dropouts and the students who are at risk of dropping out from the educational process.

The media material includes information and figures, bearing the slogan “My pen my dream”, in order “to help spread the word about the campaign.”

Al-Khatib indicated that some organizations and social entities contributed on the ground in specific ways such as replacing their logos with the logo of the campaign to spread awareness.

All in all, the main goal of the campaign is to engage broadly with different actors to enable the voice of a generation, threatened by the denial of education, to be heard. The Syrian Media Forum seeks to open the door for all who want to take part in the campaign through providing them with media material.

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