North Africa, West Asia

In Syria, education gives a flicker of hope: photo essay

In times of conflict, school can transform lives, reduce the risk of joining armed groups and nurture peaceful and cohesive communities.

Genevieve Lomax
24 January 2020, 12.01am
Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Since January, it is estimated that over 33,000 school children in Syria are unable to go to school. Before the war, almost all of Syria’s children were enrolled in primary school, but today the country's school enrollment rates are among the lowest in the world.

School can provide the one flicker of normality for young people engulfed in conflict. It can transform lives, reduce the risk of joining armed groups and nurture peaceful, and cohesive communities. But in Syria, the challenges are so high, teachers have left due to fear of bombing, with local schools acting as refuge for those who have fled the violence.

On the International Day of Education, we can reflect on some hope, in the form of a new education centre supported by Christian Aid, the European Commission and a local partner organisation. Stories from students, demonstrate their quest to gain an education, despite the challenges.

*All pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

‘Education is my future, my hope, my life’ - Basel, 18

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Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Displaced due to conflict, Basel was forced to miss school. He describes the local education centre as ‘a miracle’ that he’d otherwise struggle to afford. Living with a disability, he is keen to excel in computing so he doesn’t have to be dependent on others. Not only has the center improved his mathematics, English and Arabic skills, but he has grown in confidence and made friends.

“One of the main difficulties for education in my country is the bombing that the towns and cities are subjected to indiscriminately, without distinction between civilians and military. This bombing has led to destruction of schools and cases of mass displacement. Teachers have left schools in fear of bombing”.

‘Knowledge is a weapon for humankind’ - Bisan, 17

Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Bisan sees education as essential for Syria’s future. Previously, she was unable to go to school, and was forced to move to the area due to the conflict.

“Knowledge is a weapon for humankind by which they can face any difficulties that they encounter. I think that we have to strive for education, for the development and advancement of the country. The true suffering of the Syrians is the war and I wish that the whole world would help us end it so we can live safely”.

‘Whoever takes a path to seek knowledge, Allah makes the path to Paradise easy for him’ - Dalal, 17

Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Dalal dreams of becoming a doctor so that she can help people. Working hard she has caught up on studies she missed from being displaced.

“All of these difficulties of poverty, displacement and war motivate me to learn and encourage people into education. The centre helped me facilitate a way to complete my studies, because we cannot achieve our ambition in the shadow of this war.

Whatever the many circumstances, the difficulties, the displacement and the wars, my dream to become a doctor has not changed. I will fight these circumstances and resist them, and I will achieve my dream.”

‘Education eliminates ignorance’ - Muhammad, 25

Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Through the education center, Muhammad is able to enjoy the abundance of books available to him. He recognizes that the need to earn a living is preventing young people from accessing education.

“One of the biggest problems surrounding Syrians is ignorance and lack of awareness. We need awareness and education in the importance of thought and knowledge.”

“Education is essential to help me raise my children in the future” - Omar, 20

Pictures by Maher Tarke / Christian Aid

Omar is hard-working and competitive, and aims to be top of his class. Initially, due to a spinal injury, he did not attend the center. Encouraged by a friend who helps him go to the center, and easy access, he now attends regularly. Previously, he had struggled to get up the stairs at his school.

“The Darna Centre is like a bridge that students cross to reach their hopes and aspirations. I want to work in the future in the field of education due to its importance in developing and enlightening society”.

Find out more about Christian Aid’s EU funded work in Syria.

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