“Autonomous Administration” press to impose own curriculum in Deir Ezzor
Enab Baladi – Deir Ezzor
Despite Deir Ezzor’s need for education, which has declined since the Islamic State group (IS) took control of the eastern governorate in mid-2014, some parents refrained from sending their children to schools, in protest against the Autonomous Administration’s attempts to change the curriculum, at the expense of the lack of support that the educational sector suffers from.
The Kurdish-run Autonomous Administration that controls the eastern bank of the Euphrates River has not tried during the past years to improve services or even to build schools to accommodate some students in Deir Ezzor.
Rather, it focused on re-evaluating the available educational curriculum and re-introducing a new one that teaches students the philosophy of the founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.
The imposition of the new educational curriculum was considered by the residents of the governorate as offensive to their culture, and others considered it “offensive to religion,” which prompted protests and strikes in mid-2022.
Severe shortage in educational sector
The areas of the Autonomous Administration in the countryside of Deir Ezzor suffer from a severe shortage of educational supplies and teaching staff in general, according to a source in the Deir Ezzor Teachers’ Union, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he does not have the authority to speak to the media.
The source told Enab Baladi that the international organizations supporting the education sector in the governorates of al-Hasakah and Raqqa do not provide the same support to the governorate of Deir Ezzor, because of the workers’ fear of visiting the area, which contains IS sleeper cells.
About 700 schools were damaged in the areas run by the Autonomous Administration in Deir Ezzor as a result of the battles more than five years ago, and work was not carried out on their restoration until the end of the last academic year, according to an administrative source in an educational complex in the governorate.
The teaching complexes, known locally as “educational complexes,” which run a series of schools, converted 85 homes into schools due to the lack of infrastructure for the educational sector in the region.
The source, who asked not to indicate his name or his place of work for fear of accountability, as he does not have the authority to speak to the media, attributed the reasons for the weakness of the infrastructure to the fact that the areas run by the Autonomous Administration in Deir Ezzor have not seen the construction of a new school for about 12 years.
The poor requirements of the educational sector in Deir Ezzor have reached an “exaggerated” stage, according to teachers with whom Enab Baladi contacted in the Euphrates Educational Complex. Some schools do not have seats for students, and they are forced to sit on a dirt floor during lessons.
Education budget continues to decline
A source working in the Teachers Union in Deir Ezzor told Enab Baladi that the education budget proposed by the Autonomous Administration for the academic year 2020 and 2021 amounted to about $2 million, part of which is support from international organizations.
While it decreased in the academic year 2022 and 2023 to less than $1 million, which reflects the decline in administrative interest in the region by the authorities working in it, according to the source.
The educational authorities and local unions addressed the Education Committee of the Autonomous Administration, calling for raising the level of support as it is in al-Hasakah and Raqqa, but to no avail.
The number of Deir Ezzor students is estimated at about 300,000 students in all educational stages (primary and secondary), of whom about 7,500 students have taken basic and secondary certificate exams in regime-controlled areas due to the lack of an internationally recognized curriculum in SDF-held areas, an official source in the Education Committee told Enab Baladi.
The Autonomous Administration areas in Deir Ezzor lack secondary schools almost completely, as there is only one vocational high school in the town of Abu Hammam, east of the governorate.
“Autonomous Administration” limits its activity to changing the curriculum
According to the official in the Education Committee, the rejection of the curriculum issued by the Autonomous Administration in Deir Ezzor is linked to the refusal to teach the Kurdish language to the people of the region, as it does not concern them.
In addition, the province of Deir Ezzor is considered a region of a tribal nature, as its residents reject what they consider insulting to their culture or religion, which the “Administration” does not take into consideration.
The official of the Education Committee, who hails from the same governorate, said that the committee has been trying for three years to negotiate with the notables and people of the governorate and the clerics in it, to convince the street of the new curriculum without changing its position.
The Autonomous Administration intends to impose its methods to entrench beliefs that have nothing to do with the beliefs and customs of the people of the region, according to the official.
In October 2022, separate areas of Deir Ezzor governorate witnessed protests and a strike by teachers because of a new curriculum, which residents in the region considered “contrary to religion and customs in the region.”
The Autonomous Administration responded by issuing an administrative order, seen by Enab Baladi, to issue a written warning against its teachers in the event of absence from work and to take measures and financial deductions against the strikers. However, the strike did not stop and ended with the suspension of the circulation of the new curriculum in the region.
The curriculum announced by the Autonomous Administration includes religious content that the people of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa governorates considered inconsistent with the beliefs and culture of the region, such as comparing the Prophet Muhammad to Buddha or comparing him to Zoroaster, locally known as Zaradasht, and extracting common traits between them.
The curriculum also included sayings attributed to the founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, included among other sayings of well-known philosophers and writers, such as the French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre, Spinoza, and others.
The curriculum repeatedly talked about freedom and its concept, but most of these concepts were derived from sayings attributed to the “thinker” Öcalan.
Enab Baladi contacted the Autonomous Administration institutions via its official channels to get their opinion and find out their justifications for imposing these curricula. The Administration refused to answer unless obtaining a media work permit in its areas.
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