Launch of Kurdish courses for teachers stirs controversy in Syria’s Raqqa

A school in the city of Raqqa - 5 October 2018 (Reuters)

A school in the city of Raqqa - 5 October 2018 (Reuters)


Raqqa – Abdulaziz al-Saleh

A Kurdish course for male and female teachers conducted by the Education Committee, linked to the Raqqa Civil Council, has triggered a debate among citizens in the city of Raqqa, northern Syria. 

The course, which began on 15 August, and has a duration of one month, is intended for 16 Kurdish language teachers from fresh graduates of the university, to improve Kurdish language skills and prepare them for the new academic year 2020-2021, to teach students both Arabic and Kurdish languages. New teachers are appointed to schools through a written examination at the end of the course.

The head of the Education Committee, Khalaf al-Matar, told Enab Baladi that the city of Raqqa uses the official curriculum of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which is in the Arabic language. There are no Kurdish language courses for students, but preferably courses directed only to teachers of the Kurdish language, who teach it for students of the Kurdish component only. Regarding the number of hours of teaching Arabic, which is limited to two hours per week, al-Matar explained that it is dedicated to students of the Kurdish component, and not for students of the Arab component. The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) uses the “UNICEF” curriculum in the cities of Raqqa, al-Tabqah, and Deir Ezzor.

However, in the rest of the NES-held areas, the NES curriculum is adopted. Students study the curriculum according to their mother tongue; if they are Kurdish, they take the Kurdish curriculum while the Arabic component is taught in the curriculum of the Arabic language. Besides, the Syriac component is taught in the curriculum of the Syriac language, al-Matar highlighted. 

Amer al-Jasem, a resident of Raqqa city, called on the Education Committee to consider the future of children, and not only at the current stage. Al-Jasem believes that teaching the Kurdish language alongside the Arabic language does not contribute to securing the children’s future.

Al-Jasem told Enab Baladi that the Kurdish language is not an international language, and students do not need it during their advanced studies in universities or institutes. As for teaching English or French, it is “very important”, especially after the student reaches advanced school levels.

Meanwhile, Ahmad al-Sharif, a resident of the city, believes that the Kurds of the city have the right to teach their children the Kurdish language, as it should be among the recognized languages in Syria in the future.

However, according to what he told Enab Baladi, Arab students should not be obligated to learn the Kurdish language, stressing that learning Kurdish should be optional; the choice of whether to learn Kurdish language or not should be left to the students or their families. 

Al-Sharif added that the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over northeastern Syria is only a temporary phase because the Syrian regime, or the Turkish-backed opposition factions, or the people of the region, will not allow demographic change, even on the level of language.

The process of introducing an additional language to the minds of male and female students in the school stages is “complicated,” and it will lead to their distraction, according to teacher Eman Hussein.

Hussein believes that the Education Committee must work according to a correct and proper basis to make the educational process successful and teach children the appropriate Arabic language and the English language in addition to other subjects such as mathematics and science.

Emphasis must be placed on teaching home language in early grade years. Learning or teaching the Kurdish language must be set aside because this is considered a “luxury.” Students can learn the Kurdish language if they want to, not by force, Hussein said.

On the other hand,  the journalist in the “Raqqa Civil Council” Osama al-Khalaf told Enab Baladi that the Kurdish learning courses for teachers target the Kurdish component, not the Arab, as is the case for Syriacs, Assyrians, and Turkmen, denying that the classes are mandatory for teachers.

On 29 August, the Education Committee in the NES announced that the start of schools, institutes, and enrichment courses will be delayed until 4 October, “in the interest of students’ safety, and to limit the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in the NES-held areas.


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