An opportunity for a brighter future: UNICEF’s self-learning helps children in east rural Aleppo get back to learning

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© UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa

In Aleppo, years of conflict have severely impacted children’s education. They have been forced out of school because of fighting, multiple displacements and lost livelihoods. As children across the world excitedly go back to school, too many children in Syria continue to miss out on significant years of learning.

For children in the rural villages of Rasm Al-Aboud and Al-Sheikh Ahmad - 40 kilometers east of Aleppo city - the UNICEF-supported self-learning programme allows children to get back to learning and dream of a brighter future. As of July this year, over 1,000 children in those villages alone have joined the programme. Most of them started returning to their home villages in 2017, after violence subsided, to find their schools severely damaged and infrastructure utterly unusable.

Sixteen-year-old Mahmoud was injured six years ago by a mine explosion while playing with his friends in Al-Sheikh Ahamd village.

Following the incident, the family embarked on their four-year displacement journey, seeking safety and access to proper healthcare for Mahmoud. Not only did Mahmoud lose years of learning, he also lost his right hand and his eyesight in his left eye.

“I wasn’t discouraged. Instead, my injuries inspired me to continue learning. And my father, limitlessly, encouraged me to go back to school,” he adds.

Upon returning home, Mahmoud went through a placement test and enrolled in school. To remedy his missed learning, in 2018, Mahmoud started attending UNICEF-supported self-learning during weekends and after school hours.

In the neighbouring village of Rasm Al-Aboud 13-year-old Ibrahim was also struggling to stay in school. Because of the conflict, multiple displacements and having to work to support his family, Ibrahim was missing out on his learning. He had barely been to school until recently. “I could not read street signs,” says Ibrahim, 13, “cutting and selling wood meant I couldn’t go to school.”

When Ibrahim’s father and two siblings died in a mine explosion, the burden became even heavier to provide for the rest of the family.

In 2018, the family, who had been displaced seven times, returned to their hometown of Rasm Al-Aboud, “My mother encouraged me to get back to learning after we returned home,” he says. Ibrahim now benefits from self-learning classes to help him catch up on his education.

“Juggling classes with work isn’t easy,” says Ibrahim who continues to work while studying. “But education is our future. This is my message to all children”

Through UNICEF’s self-learning programme out-of-school children and those who had irregular access to school have the opportunity to catch up with their peers with the help of volunteers or caregivers by studying at home or in community centres.

In the programme, children aged 7 to 18 years-old learn subjects such as Arabic, English, science and mathematics to catch up on their years of missed learning.

Thanks to a generous contribution from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), this year UNICEF has reached over 40,000 children across Syria through its self-learning programme, helping them resume their education and connect with peers while preparing them to reintegrate into regular school.