People of al-Tai neighbourhood cannot find alternative schools for their children. 

Female students in the city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria (Hawar News Agency)

Female students in the city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria (Hawar News Agency)

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Qamishli – Majd al-Salem

Ibrahim Muhammad, a 39-year-old resident of the al-Tai neighbourhood, made several phone calls to taxi drivers trying to negotiate the monthly costs of school transportation services they could offer to his three children. 

Muhammad wants to send his three children to one of the primary schools that still adopt the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Education curriculum. However, Muhammad could not come to an agreement with any taxi drivers because they asked for high transport fees. 

In the last school year, the school of Ibrahim Muhammad’s children was only 150 meters away from their house. However, this year Muhammad has to enroll his children in different schools in villages controlled by the Syrian regime.

Ibrahim Muhammad told Enab Baladi that after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took over the al-Tai neighborhood. And given schools linked to the administration have not obtained any international recognition, thousands of students have to look for an alternative to the schools seized by the Autonomous Administration. That will consequently impose additional financial burdens on the students’ already overburdened parents.

Last April, the Internal Security forces (Asayish) of the Autonomous Administration took control of most of the al-Tai neighborhood in Qamishli, after several clashes with the National Defence Forces, a pro-government militia. 

The SDF turned most of the al-Tai neighborhood’s schools into military centers. In addition, the curriculum of the Autonomous Administration, which was introduced last year, sparked controversy among the people of the eastern Euphrates region. This is because the curriculum addresses some issues the population of the region has reservations about. 

 They consider the administration’s curriculum offensive to Arabic and Islamic cultures because it teaches “genealogy” or “the science of women,” a science advocated by Kurdish parties. Its topics are exclusively concerned with women and their role in achieving gender equality. 

One of the Autonomous Administration’s middle school books has a map of “the Kurdistan State,” which includes parts of Syria with a nationalistic orientation that bothered  Arabs and other components of society in the east of the Euphrates. This book was also rejected by many teachers in the region. 

High costs

Ibrahim Muhammad wants his children to learn the curriculum followed by the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Education. Therefore, he insists on sending his children to schools in villages controlled by the Syrian government. However, he faces a problem finding affordable school transportation services. 

Muhammad said that if he wants to send his children to school by taxi, this would cost him 25,000 SYP for each child. Given the deteriorating economic conditions, Muhammad is very concerned; he does not know how to cover the expenses of transportation fees, stationery, and others when meeting his family’s needs can be hardly met. 

The al-Tai neighborhood has three schools, of which only two are still functioning. These two schools used to adopt the Syrian regime’s curriculum. 

The third school was used by the National Defence Forces as a military base eight years ago even though clearly the neighborhood’s schools were overcrowded with students and morning and evening shifts were provided to accommodate students coming from the rest of the city’s neighborhoods, controlled by the SDF, a teacher, who requested his name be withheld for security reasons, told Enab Baladi.  

“Now, all the neighborhood’s schools do not function under the supervision of the Syrian government’s education system,” the teacher said. 

He added,” There are a few attempts being made by the neighborhood residents and teachers to reach an understanding with the Autonomous Administration in order to postpone teaching its curriculum until next year. Nevertheless, they do not expect a positive response.”

Countryside schools as an alternative

According to what Enab Baladi gathered from the opinions of al-Tai neighborhood residents, the majority of the al-Tai neighborhood residents want to send their kids to the countryside to live with their relatives and complete their education in the regime’s schools. 

This is a reversal of past trends. In the past, in the countryside, people would send their children to the city to get a better education. However, nowadays, people insist on sending their children to schools located in the countryside because the regime still controls about 70 villages in the southern countryside of Qamishli, which includes its schools and curriculum. 

Yasser al-Mellehan, a 38-year-old resident of the al-Tai neighborhood, said that not all families could send their children to schools in villages controlled by the Syrian regime and obtain a better education, especially if they have more than one child who needs to go to school, mainly a primary one. This is because children at this age need more care and attention from their parents, and this is so difficult when they are away.

In light of the deteriorating economic conditions, Yasser al-Mellehan told Enab Baladi, host families could feel embarrassed and financially burdened.

Yasser al-Mellehan and some of his friends decided to take their children by bicycle to a school outside the neighborhood every day. This would save them a lot of transportation costs.

Some parents tried to persuade one of the principals of schools located in the square controlled by the Syrian regime to accept enrolling their children. Schools outside the control of the Autonomous Administration are overcrowded; approximately 50 students exist in one class. It is so hard to find a seat for one student in regime-held areas. That’s why people resort to “personal connections” to register their children in schools run by the Syrian government. 

Parents are forced to do this instead of accepting the status quo and teaching their children the Autonomous Administration’s curriculum, since it has not received any recognition from a local or international authority so far.

The Autonomous Administration’s Education Authority announced, last May, that it would start rehabilitating and renovating the neighbourhood’s schools “so that students can finish their school year without facing any obstacles.”

However, the administration has not implemented its above-mentioned plan yet, even after the start of the new school year.

Children who have not completed their education and drop out of school go to work. Many children work in factories and workshops while others resort to selling different products on stalls, which bring them a small income. Other kids participate in military activities; they join the conflicting parties and take up arms to fight in return for monthly salaries.

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