Northern Syrian camps: Lack of transportation deprives students of school attendance 

Children ride a vehicle taking them from school to a camp in northern rural Idlib - May 1, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Iyad Abdul Jawad)

Children ride a vehicle taking them from school to a camp in northern rural Idlib - May 1, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Iyad Abdul Jawad)


Idlib – Anas al-Khouli

Every morning, Mariam rushes from her home in the muddy al-Farouqia camp in the Salqin area towards her school in the village of Hayr Jamous, north of Idlib. She covers a distance of eight kilometers on foot on a rugged road, amidst her fears of stray dogs chasing her.

Mariam Ayman Mohammed, a 17-year-old student in the third secondary grade (scientific baccalaureate), told Enab Baladi that walking is the only solution to get to her school, due to the absence of schools in the camp, the absence of public transport, and the high cost of private transport.

She mentioned that going to school has become a troubling problem amid the lack of solutions and her father’s inability to bear the costs. She does not risk riding unknown vehicles passing by the road for fear of harassment or abduction, pointing out that her three siblings (elementary stage) miss school in the winter due to the difficulty of the road.

The young woman resists the circumstances in order to complete her education, while other students stay away from their school seats for the same reasons. Mariam lives in a muddy camp known as al-Farouqia, which was established in 2017 by the Qatar Red Crescent in an urgent manner to shelter the displaced (the muddy camp was built on the basis that it was suitable for living for only five years, after which the displaced would be moved to other, better camps).

In turn, Mahmoud al-Ahmad (53 years old), displaced from the rural Hama and residing in the al-Farouqia camp, said his eight children had to leave school due to the problem of commuting from the camp to the neighboring town schools. He pointed out that he is unable to afford the cost of private tutoring, which was suggested as an alternative.

Students in the remote camps in northern Idlib suffer from the lack of schools within their camps due to the insufficient number of students to open schools, the lack of transport and public transportation which would take them from their homes to their schools, increasing their suffering and forcing many of them to abandon their studies.

The situation of students in the al-Farouqia camp is similar to that of students in dozens of camps in northern Syria, whose numbers range between 1,400 camps (according to UN reports) and 1,800 camps according to local authorities. New camps have emerged after the earthquake that hit the region in February 2023.

Transport by individual efforts or carpooling

The means of transportation for people in northern Syria vary, the most prominent of which is relying on motorcycles, which are a cheap but not fully sufficient means and are dangerous in case of accidents.

Some local initiatives are active, based on coordination between students and bus owners to transport them from a specific point to a nearby school, as in the case of student Ali Ibrahim. His family pays 60 Turkish liras weekly for transporting him from Kafarbani town to its neighbor Harbanoush.

Ali, a tenth-grade student, commutes from his camp near Kafarbani, walking for about two kilometers to the center of the town, then he leaves with his classmates in a bus to the secondary school in Harbanoush which is six kilometers away.

If the bus breaks down, the students manage on their own, either by returning to their homes or waiting for a car or motorcycle to pick them up, according to what the student told Enab Baladi.

In the northern region, there is a phenomenon of relying on public cars to reach the desired destination, which carries risks for the passer-by and the driver, on roads that witness traffic accidents almost daily.

According to testimonies to Enab Baladi from the Bakri camp near the village of Deir Seta in northern rural Idlib, most of the camp’s residents send their children to the village’s school, which is about two kilometers away, by unidentified cars without knowing their drivers.

Children ride in the rear boxes of cars, which is the only available means for parents, and the other choices for students are either to walk, which is exhausting, or to stop studying.

Private tutoring is another crisis

Given these difficulties, the options remain limited for parents, and the solutions seem impossible as the educational reality suffers from problems in northwest Syria. Some parents compensate for shortages by resorting to private tutoring, which further burdens them with additional expenses.

Mariam’s father (50 years old) told Enab Baladi that he has four children in school who go there on foot, and in winter his young children are absent because of the difficulty in getting there since the nearest available schools are eight kilometers away.

He added that despite walking, the costs of teaching his four children are high for supplies and the like, which could reach $100 a month. He depends on “kind people of donors” to provide for it as there are no job opportunities available to him, considering private tutoring an impossible option.

In Idlib, the phenomenon of private lessons for students, especially in the ninth and baccalaureate grades, whether teaching them at home or hosting them in institutes, is widespread. The costs of these lessons for a student in one year can exceed $200, and this amount varies from one teacher to another.

Enab Baladi directed some questions to the Directorate of Education regarding the absence of some schools in the camps, the difficulty of commuting for students, and ways to compensate them for the lessons they miss due to frequent absences, but did not receive a response until the moment of publishing this report.

A million children out of school

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that the military escalation in northwest Syria has significantly affected the accessibility of educational services for 2.2 million school-age children, according to its report in November 2023.

The report added that of the 2.2 million children of school age in northwest Syria, at least one million are out of school, noting that the situation is especially tragic in displacement camps.

57% of children do not have access to primary schools, and 80% do not have access to secondary schools, according to a report by the office released on November 3, 2023.

In November 2023, the Director of Education in Idlib, Ahmed al-Hassan, told Enab Baladi that the area’s schools are experiencing a shortage of textbooks, and 500,000 students need books.

Al-Hassan attributed the reasons for the shortage to the expiration of memorandums of understanding with donor entities that provided the books in previous years, ending in late 2022.


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