Demand for private lessons increases in Daraa during exam season

Female students in a school in Daraa al-Balad in southern Syria - 31 January 2022 (Enab Baladi \ Halim Muhammad)

Female students in a school in Daraa al-Balad in southern Syria - 31 January 2022 (Enab Baladi \ Halim Muhammad)

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Daraa – Halim Muhammad

As middle and high school exams in Syria approach, students demonstrate the need for private lessons from specialized teachers to strengthen their skills in certain subjects and to change educational methods when explaining lessons away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom and high numbers of students in it.

In the southern Syrian governorate of Daraa, this need collides with people’s inability to pay for private lessons, which is accompanied by teachers taking advantage of the conditions of some students by raising teaching hours wages. The majority of families depend on agriculture, in which the profit and loss ratio varies depending on the season’s production of crops.

Educational fate at stake

“I need consolidation in certain subjects such as English. But my family’s financial capacity does not allow for many lessons”, said Retaj, an 18-year-old female student who lives in the western countryside of Daraa. She also made it clear to Enab Baladi that, for her, it is a matter of fate since a high school certificate would determine the future and major of a student at university.

The hourly wages for teaching at home are 5000 to 10,000 thousand Syrian pounds. This price varies depending on whether the teaching is in a group or individually, in addition to the difference according to the subject’s degree of difficulty, according to what Enab Baladi had monitored in certain areas of the governorate.

A teaching hour dedicated to one student is more expensive. The cost of a subject also varies according to the competence of its teacher and reputation among students in the field. For example, the fare per hour for teaching mathematics is up to 15,000 Syrian pounds, according to the student.

The exchange rate of 1 USD dollar against the Syrian pound reached 3,905 pounds over the past week, according to the Syrian Pound Today website, which specializes in exchange rates and foreign currencies.

The number of teaching hours varies from one student to another; Retaj estimated that she needs about 20 hours of private lessons until the start of the examinations.

Umm Hussein, Retaj’s mother, told Enab Baladi that she prioritizes her daughter’s education over all family obligations. Despite the family’s poverty, she hires teachers according to her daughter’s desire for subjects that she lacks in, as she decided to sell a cow to secure private lessons.

Why are private lessons important?

“We did not understand some of the paragraphs. Although we asked the teacher for clarification, he was unable to communicate the idea. So I hired a private teacher to explain the lessons and the ideas I did not comprehend”, said Retaj.

Students experience poor uptake of subjects due to the linkage of third-grade subjects to the basics of the tenth and eleventh-grade subjects, which have not been fully taught in the past two years due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which caused a partial closure of schools.

The educational process has also declined in public schools after the loss of teaching staff, and the most prominent reasons for this were displacement or asylum or even the dismissal of teachers because of their political position. This prompted the Directorate of Education to enlist new graduates with insufficient teaching experience, according to a poll conducted by Enab Baladi among the city’s teaching staff.

Schools need staff. The decision to return dismissed teachers has not yet been implemented, although all the papers required by the dismissed teachers have been completed.

The return of dismissed employees in government institutions was one of the conditions that the Russian side pledged to implement during the agreement on the settlement in July 2018 with the Central Committee composed of former leaders, dignitaries, and intellectuals to negotiate with the regime under Russian supervision.

The destruction of school infrastructure has also played a role in hampering the educational process, increasing the number of students within a single classroom, and affecting the level of comprehension and the teacher’s ability to communicate the idea thoroughly.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three schools in Syria is partially or completely inoperative. It is estimated that more than 2.45 million children are out of school, and the proportion is higher among displaced children, with 54 percent who have dropped out of school located in camps.

One of the reasons that push teachers to give private lessons is the low wages that the teacher receives from the Ministry of Education, with a salary of no more than 150,000 Syrian pounds.

 

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