Students and employees move in search of electricity, internet in Syria

Students study in cafes due to the lack of electricity and the internet at home - January 12 (Enab Baladi)

Students study in cafes due to the lack of electricity and the internet at home - January 12 (Enab Baladi)


Enab Baladi – Maria al-Shaaban  

“In one of the virtual meetings on the Zoom app, which is blocked from working in Syria, I was planned to be the lecturer and the session manager, before the landline internet connection suddenly cut off. I quickly subscribed to a special internet package, which was deactivated because I used a VPN application to enter the meeting, forcing my exit from the session and putting me in an unenviable situation in front of managers and work colleagues.”

Samar, (28 years old), who is a student in the Faculty of Media at Damascus University and works remotely in designing printed ads, has resorted to multiple solutions to avoid work failure she faces due to the power outage exceeding 18 hours a day in her area.

Samar is trying to prove her worth and seriousness to her work manager and university professors, who consider the delay in completing tasks as mere laziness.

She consistently looks for centers or cafes that provide electricity and internet service, and an environment relatively suitable for studying and work.

The search for a chair, table, and internet

The near-constant power outage in areas under the control of the Syrian regime generally affects various aspects of the daily lives of the population, including students and employees whose work primarily depends on electricity and the internet.

A category of students and those working freelance (non-office based) tend to look for places that provide a suitable environment for work, ensuring the completion of their duties and tasks, allowing them to sit for long hours without having to order food or drink every hour or two, according to the cafe policy.

Some centers and cafes offer monthly and daily subscriptions in exchange for providing a suitable environment for work, with the price of one hour ranging between 2,000 to 5,000 Syrian pounds, according to various features.

The exchange rate of the Syrian pound reached 14,775 against the US dollar at the time of this report, according to the S-P Today website, which specializes in monitoring the rates of foreign currencies.

Economical packages

As observed by Enab Baladi, the packages (subscriptions) offered by study centers or cafes to their visitors vary, with prices starting from one-hour reservations to the unlimited hours packages.

Pricing varies depending on the place, services, and even the province, where the monthly subscription price in one of the centers in the capital Damascus reaches 120,000 pounds for 7 hours daily in the morning, and 140,000 pounds for the evening time slot.

As for the unlimited hours packages, prices range between 300,000 and 500,000 Syrian pounds per month and vary according to different criteria also.

Some cafes and work centers prefer to separate the internet subscription bill from the monthly package bill for those interested in subscribing to the place without using the internet.

Some also limit the working hours of one device connected to the internet network to one or two hours, after which the allowed duration for using the center’s internet ends, and the device owner must ask for the internet code again, which means an additional price.

Unsuccessful endeavors

Subscribing to a center or cafe does not guarantee the availability of a vacant seat that the person finds upon arrival, which is what student and employee Samar faced several times, after traveling a distance that takes an hour and a half from her house in the countryside of Damascus to Bab Touma in the city, only to find the place full and left with either choosing to sit in a hall that contains seats without tables or look for a nearby cafe or return home after spending time, money, and effort to arrive.

The cost of transportation within Damascus and its countryside to and from the available centers adds up to 100,000 pounds monthly, in addition to the subscription fees, which vary depending on the number of hours required, as Samar mentioned.

The situation differs somewhat when moving to other provinces such as Hama. In a conversation with Enab Baladi, Fatima, a first-year commerce and economics student at Hama University, said that transportation is not the biggest burden on students in the city, but the number of cafes providing a suitable environment for study and work is small compared to the demand, and these centers are usually under increased pressure during the exam period, leaving students searching for alternatives, often in vain.

Halls for private lessons

Some private institutes that had underused classrooms due to the low demand for educational courses have converted them into halls that accommodate students and employees looking for a quiet place, providing the essentials for work and study in exchange for a monthly fee or according to the number of working hours in the hall.

As well as institutes offering halls for teachers and students looking for a spacious place to give private lessons or lectures.

Enab Baladi observed in the city of Damascus institutes that offered their halls for free, and others with a financial compensation varying according to the size of the hall, reaching the price of 20,000 Syrian pounds per hour for a hall accommodating up to 20 people in the city.


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