Remote villages bear costs of transportation for teachers in Homs countryside
Homs – Orwah al-Mundhir
In the early morning hours, Samer, a resident of Talbiseh city, inspects the fuel tank in his motorcycle and checks the wheel pressure to make sure the motorbike is ready to cut 40 kilometers to the school, in which he was recently appointed as a teacher in the al-Ballan village of the al-Rastan town, north of Homs governorate.
The second-grade teacher, Samer, dressed in his leather jacket and scarf wrapped around his face, complained to Enab Baladi saying, “I need a liter of fuel every day, and my salary does not exceed 50,000 Syrian pounds (SYP = 19 USD), so how can I manage my affairs!”
The Ministry of Education of the Syrian regime’s government issued last March decision No. “1116,” by which it appointed 15,000 second-class teachers, 1,916 of whom were appointed in Homs province.
Under the ministry’s decision, the teachers were assigned in remote areas before being allowed to move to schools closer to their residence places.
Those assignments, which coincided with a crisis in fuel availability and high prices, caused teachers to refuse their appointments and consequently led to a lack of cadres in schools whose students became forced to secure transportation costs to their teachers.
Teaching in Homs countryside… from a blessing to a curse
Samer gave up counting on his university degree in mathematics, which qualified him to become a first-class employee in exchange for a job opportunity, even if it was a second-rate one.
“I was thrilled to read my name among the successful ones to be appointed, but soon the job I got transformed from a blessing into a curse, for the cost of getting to the school exceeds more than 1,000 (SYP = 0.39 USD) a day,” Samer said.
During the opposition forces’ control of northern Homs countryside and the city centers’ heavy bombardment by the regime forces, families from al-Rastan and Talbiseh towns fled to less targeted smaller villages, which led to an increase in the number of classrooms in the schools of these areas.
From the school administration room in the al-Ballan village, headmaster Nasser’s voice rose while talking with the teaching staff and a group of parents of some students in an attempt to solve the problem, especially with the “lack of response” of the educational complex that is responsible for the schools.
The students’ parents agreed with the teachers to raise 500 (SYP = 0.195 USD) each week from each school student, but the news soon reached the educational complex.
“Were it not for their good knowledge of me and hiding the matter, I would have been fired from my job and transferred to the monitoring and inspection authority,” the headmaster said to Enab Baladi.
As for the students’ families, they were not all willing to bear the cost of teachers’ transportation, despite their wish for their children to receive an education.
“I have four children at school, and I cannot pay 2,000 (SYP = 0.78 USD) a week,” said Abu Hussam, a shoe repairman worker in al-Ballan village, noting that a teacher is a government employee, and his\her responsibility lies with the Directorate of Education.
The educational complex in each area is equivalent to a small education directorate, and the director of the educational complex has the authority of the director of education in his sector. Despite the education complex’s suspension of the family donations initiative, it did not offer any alternative solutions to schools with insufficient educational cadres.
The meeting place of students’ families and school administration moved from the school to the village’s chief house, where they reached another solution. The village’s dignitaries and well-off persons agreed to provide four liters of fuel every week for each teacher coming from outside their village.
At the end of a school day, Samer heads to the chief’s house at the village entrance, empties the gasoline bottle into the fuel tank, and takes what is necessary for a new school day before he starts his motorcycle engine toward his city.
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