Children start a new academic year in UNICEF-rehabilitated schools in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria

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© UNICEF/Syria/2019/Kheder

Masoud Hasan and Lina Alqassab

Syria, Deir-ez-Zor - For years, students of Adel Haj Honaidi school in Deir-ez-Zor city, northeast of Syria, were forced to use only half of their school building after its upper floor was entirely damaged amid fighting.

Through long periods of conflict and siege, the school came under attack many times, but the students continued to attend classes despite the circumstances. “When fighting got close while we were at school, we would run and hide under desks,” recalls Rafif, 10 years old, “the doors and windows were all broken and there were cracks all over the walls and roofs.”

This fall, however, the students are starting their new academic year excited for a very different experience, after their school was slightly rehabilitated and brought back in shape with UNICEF’s support.

The rehabilitation included repairing and painting the conflict-damaged roofs and walls, installation of doors, windows, fans and heaters, rehabilitation of the power supply system and water and sanitation facilities, in addition to rehabilitating the stairs and installing ramps and handrails for children with disabilities.

“Now that clean water and toilets are available again, I feel much more secure being at school,” says 12-year-old Ibrahim who studies hard to realize his dream of becoming a pilot in the future.

For Shadi who is a fifth grader at the school, the favourite change is the new colourful walls. “I love school even more now with this new look!” he says. Shadi returned to Deir-ez-Zor three years ago after two years of displacement due to the conflict, yet he never dropped out of school, as he deeply believes that “education is what builds humans.”

This school is one of five schools that have been rehabilitated by UNICEF in Deir-ez-Zor this summer. Rehabilitation is also underway in eight other schools in the same governorate which will bring the number of benefiting students to nearly 5,500 children by the end of 2019. School rehabilitation in Deir-ez-Zor governorate is funded by generous contributions from Canada and Norway.