Eyad’s return to education despite challenges

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UNICEF supports Grade 12 students to sit for national exams in Syria

Masoud Hasen and Yasmine Saker

Deir-ez-Zor, Syria, 31 August 2020- In June, Eyad, 19, travelled from the city of Raqqa to Deir-ez-Zor in northeastern Syria to sit for his national Grade 12 exams, having been out of school for over four years due to conflict and displacement.

“I had fled with my family seeking safety in Lebanon, where I worked as a day labourer to help put food on the table,” recalls Eyad. “The tiring work for low income made me realize the importance of education for young people like me.”

Following respite in violence, Eyad and his family moved back to Raqqa two years ago, to find their home partially destroyed. While he was determined to prepare for his national Grade 12 exams, he was faced with a lot of challenges.

“We were living in severe lack of basic services, but also lack of access to education; most teachers had fled the city, schoolbooks were rare to find, and most schools were heavily destroyed,” continues Eyad.

Earlier this year, Eyad’s challenges were further compounded by COVID-19 restrictions, preventing students like himself from frequenting learning centres or even study groups of his peers to help each other prepare for the exams.

Despite all the challenges facing students in Raqqa, a group of brave girls and boys took the arduous journey, walking for long distances in the middle of the desert under the scorching sun, to reach their exam centres, supported by UNICEF.

“Our situation was tough, but we were tougher; we prepared well and were determined to pass our exams no matter what!” he says.

Thanks to generous contributions from Canada, Japan, the EU and Finland, UNICEF provided around 40 students coming from hard-to-reach areas to sit for their Grade 12 exams in Deir-ez-Zor with support including remedial classes to prepare for the exams, bursaries to help cover transportation costs and the provision of stationery and learning materials.

UNICEF also prepared two accommodation centres in the governorate through the rehabilitation of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, provision of safe drinking water, installation of windows and doors, maintenance of electricity and disinfection of the premises, ensuring their suitability amid COVID-19 challenges.

“The decision to return to learning after all those years was not easy, but I’m glad I made it. I’m now one step closer to my dream of becoming a computer engineer,” says Eyad.