The war in Syria enters its sixth year. People in Need provides thousands of Syrian children with access to quality education, in the endeavor to prevent a lost generation
Aleppo, Idlib (March 10th, 2016) – On March 15th, the war in Syria enters its sixth year. This conflict has resulted in the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, impacting enormously on the lives of all Syrian people and particularly those of the children. An entire generation of Syrian children has seen only war in their lives. Most of them have been deprived of a proper education. Since the start of the conflict more than 4,000 schools, one in four in the country, have had to close as a direct result of the violence. According to UN statistics, more than half of all Syrian children are not going to school and are at risk of becoming a “lost generation”. What is additionally troubling is the fact that these out-of-school children often have to work to support their families and are vulnerable to recruitment by various radical armed groups.
In addition to distributing material, financial and food aid, People in Need (PIN) supports 20 schools across northern Syria by distributing learning supplies to students; paying the wages of teachers; rehabilitating and maintaining schools; and covering their running costs. Other important aspects of this assistance include providing teacher training, ensuring students’ access to child-friendly spaces and providing structured psychosocial support activities for students.
At present, PIN supports 20 schools in northern Syria across Aleppo and Idlib governorates and supports a further three schools in southeast Turkey.
The main aims of PIN’s educational program are to provide children with greater access to education and to create spaces for their personal development. “It is essential to provide quality education for Syrians, in spite of the ongoing conflict. The children need relatively safe spaces for educational and personal development. Through this project we also aim to decrease the risk of radicalization, and support social cohesion and cooperation within the communities. We get a lot of positive feedback about our activities in Syria,” says Tomas Kocian, PIN’s coordinator of humanitarian aid.
PIN’s Efforts to Improve School Conditions
PIN has been working in the education sector in Syria since 2013 and is now one of the key providers of education in north Syria. “Apart from reconstructing buildings, training teachers and distributing school supplies, we are also paying financial grants to the employees, because they are not receiving a salary from state or other actors. We have also built a number of playgrounds to support children’s recreational activities,” says Nada Aliova, coordinator of PIN’s projects in Syria. “This academic year - 2015/2016 - we are supporting 8150 children. That is 4141 boys and 4009 girls aged 5-17,” she adds. Out of the 20 supported schools, 18 of those in the smaller towns continue to function in their original school buildings. However, two schools in Aleppo had to be temporarily closed and later moved into underground spaces in order to avoid the ongoing shelling in the city. “Our daughter goes to school three times a week. She is learning English, Arabic and mathematics. I want her to study well, maybe she will become a teacher herself one day,” says Wesam Hamadda, father of an eight-year old student. “The school is about 700 metres from our house. It is not completely safe to send our daughter there these days, but I believe that the education will be useful for her,” adds her father.
The Impact of the Conflict on Education
The conflict has impacted upon all aspects of life in Syria, and education is no exception. Fear of attacks, destruction of school buildings and forced displacement are just three of the many obstacles standing between children and their education now. “My son does not go to school now, because we fear the bombs. He was going there before, when it was safer. It may get better again in the future, but in the meantime, he is learning at home with his mother and sister,” says Mohammed Aroud, father of a nine-year old student.
“Educating our children is important not only for them and their future employment, but also because they are the future of Syria,” says Wesam Ahmed Aroab, a teacher from the town of Atarib. “They cannot go to school some days because of the shelling. Fortunately, they do not feel afraid in school and are able to focus on the classes. I try to motivate them with various competitions and prizes,” he adds.
According to Save the Children statistics, half of all attacks on schools worldwide have taken place in Syria over the past 5 years. “People in Need works in areas near the frontlines, where the situation has worsened since autumn 2015 and the number of bombarded schools in the north of the country has increased. In the first 17 days of February 2016 alone, there were 17 attacks on school buildings. A further nine attacks remain unconfirmed. Fortunately, People in Need does not work in any of these schools,” says Nada Aliova. PIN bore witness to tragedy in April 2015, when the PIN-supported Saad Al-Anasari school in eastern Aleppo was hit by a missile, which resulted in several deaths and many more being wounded. There were several children playing in the school yard at the time of the attack.
The safety and security of students and teachers is our key priority. Evacuation plans in case of attack have been prepared in every school and the students regularly train for emergency situations. People in Need also provides the schools with first-aid kits and train the staff in medical assistance. “Thanks to meticulous planning and cooperation with the local authorities, we believe that our education programs will continue even under these conditions. Our aim is to provide quality education both for the existing students and the children of newly arrived displaced persons,” says Nada Aliova.
Education for Syrian Children in Turkey
While access to education in the refugee camps in Turkey is very high, this is not the case for those living outside the camps. People in Need, therefore, support education centers in Turkey that provide Syrian children living outside refugee camps with access to education. At this time, PIN works with three schools across Hatay province in southeast Turkey. These schools are attended by more than 1150 Syrian refugee children. In the future, we are planning to expand our activities to support a greater number of schools. More than 400, 000 Syrian refugees live in Hatay province alone. Approximately half of these Syrian children are under 18 years of age and more than 100, 000 are of school age. However, in this province only 28, 000 children living outside the camps attend school.
“One of the biggest challenges facing Syrian refugees is the shortage of job opportunities. As such, many young boys and girls are put to work to help their families. Children work for lower wages and can find jobs more easily in the streets. Girls usually stay at home to help run the household,” explains Efsun Ilhan, PIN’s education program officer in Antakya. “For the parents, paying for transport to school and for learning supplies also pose considerable problems,” she explains.
People in Need has provided more than 1100 students studying in these three schools in Hatay with schoolbags, notebooks, rulers, pencils and other supplies. PIN has supported more than 50 teachers in these schools with teaching supplies and plans to assist 95 children from the most vulnerable families at each school with access to free school transportation.
In the coming months, PIN teams will work to provide more extracurricular activities for children. Parents will be able to participate in meetings between families and schools. “I would like to establish a laboratory in our school, and a sports training facility. We also need new desks and chairs,” says Ziyad Bakfalouny, a school principal in Antakya. Ziyad used to work as a principal in Aleppo, but had to flee Syria in 2012.
People in Need has been working in Syria since 2012. In the last four years, we have provided aid to more than 1.8 million Syrians. PIN has offices in Aleppo and Idlib, and programs are currently managed from southeast Turkey. There are 172 local and 12 foreign employees in our Syria team. In addition to creating job opportunities and distributing bread, food kits, and food vouchers to more than 200, 000 people every month, we also support local communities through capacity building initiatives designed to avoid long-term dependency on humanitarian aid.
One World Film Festival is #WithSyria
At this point in time, we bear witness to a fragile ceasefire between the Syrian government and some of the opposition forces. However, the ceasefire does not apply to the so-called Islamic State and the An-Nusra Front. The fighting goes on. According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR), more than 400, 000 people have been killed during the war and another 70, 000 have died because of lack of sufficient food, water and healthcare. On the fifth anniversary of the start of war, international organizations call again for universal ceasefire and solidarity with Syria. The public can join the campaign and share photos of their hands clasped in the shape of dove with the hashtag #withSyria to show their solidarity.
People in Need provides aid in Syria thanks to public donations to SOS Syria appeals, Real Aid or via the PIN Club of Friends. Institutional help is generously provided by ECHO,EC, SDC, DFID, the German government via our partner NGO, WHH, from the Alliance2015 platform and also the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We would like to thank all donors for their contributions.
For more information, please contact:
Naďa Aliová, PIN’s coordinator for Syria, M: +420 778 486 244, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomáš Kocian, PIN’s coordinator for humanitarian aid,+420 777 787 970, email@example.com