Education is one of the essential requirements in northwest Syria. The difficulties and challenges facing the education sector, in general, are escalating and the sector has been affected at various times since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in 2011.
The students were the main group affected by this reality, but also, we can say that the whole sector has been severely affected. Many of the teachers are not even receiving any of their salaries, furthermore, the educational infrastructure got partially if not totally destroyed over the past years.
In this harsh reality in Northwest Syria many local initiatives have been established, aiming to fix what can be salvaged of the damage done to the sector. These initiatives worked in parallel with opposition political bodies and the civil society organizations to fill the gap and reactivate the education sector despite minimal resources.
Statistics indicate that the education offices established in the local councils of the cities and villages were able to renovate 75 schools in Aleppo in the Northern suburbs, giving the opportunity to many of the students in those areas access to schooling.
However, there are still many huge obstacles facing the sector. Providing stable salaries and wages to workers in the educational sector, especially teachers, remains to be a problem. Despite the presence of many civil society organizations and opposition-affiliated institutions that support the educational sector with various needs, such as logistical support for infrastructure and teachers’ salaries, the support is not enough to ensure the sector is functioning properly and fully.
Local community Initiatives
First, we need to ask ourselves, is it possible for local donation campaigns – which are supporting the schools’ expenses – able to alleviate the lack of education funding in Northwest Syria?
In this regard, Abdulwahab Mahmoud, the principal of Kfarhay secondary school in Idlib, said, “after three years of struggle and working voluntarily, there has been a failure of the concerned organizations to cover the costs of the educational sector. There has now been a failure in the sector as a whole, which unfortunately will lead to a social and humanitarian disaster. We have, therefore, come up with the local community Initiative ideas.”
Abdulwahab confirms that all the initiatives are great and were launched based on the teachers’ responsibility. The importance of these initiatives came from the importance of education itself and raising the next generation; “They are all important and effective”, he added, in regards to the community initiatives. However, he noted that these initiatives alone are not enough. The situation also needs a governmental effort as well as the civil society organizations.
When asked about the success of the initiatives, Adulwahab responded, “sure they can be successful, as all the teachers are convinced about the importance of continuing the education process”. He confirmed that these initiatives are only partially enough as the education process is still going on. But they can’t cover all the costs.
He went onto say, “these initiatives need great effort and communication with capital owners as well as obtaining credibility in society. They do give all the efforts and resources available to ensure the success of the initiatives. In one village we were able to raise around 15000 US dollars”.
Yaser Horieh, Ariha Educational Complex Supervisor and one of the people running the initiative, explained that the initiative is local community based and centred, and the idea came basically from the schools’ principles. He said, “we also raised funds according to needs, in collaboration with a committee to set the criteria for the benefits, and to increase the efficiency of the initiative, we launched a social media platform and crowdfunding campaigns, in collaboration with the media outlets and activists. He also confirmed that this initiative is an urgent solution to limit the damage, but it is certainly not enough.
It’s not a secret that the education sector in Northern Syria is suffering. After it was targeted directly by the Syrian regime military campaigns in 2012 and later, which led to losing a huge part of the educational infrastructure in these areas. Due to the lack of logistic and financial support in the education sector, many students dropped out of schools and many teachers lost their jobs.
The Syrian civil defence documented 113 direct targeting of schools in Norther Syria by the Syrian regime and Russian aircrafts between 26 April 2019 and 5 March 2020.
UNESCO previously mentioned the dangerous reality of the education sector in Syria which culminated in the dropout rate of students in Syria reaching 39%.
Also, according to UNICEF the number of schools which got destroyed either partially or totally reached 400 since mid-2011 until 2022, around 40% of the total number of schools in Syria. Furthermore, 2 million Syrian students – A third of the total number – are out of schools and 1.3 million students are in danger of dropping out.
Abdo Amer, a teacher living in Idlib suburbs, commented on the current situation in Northwest Syria; “the total number of students in Idlib governorate are around 450 thousand students…. The funding and support for the secondary schools is very low, as more than 650 schools are not receiving any funding.”
Although the total number of workers in the education sector in Idlib is around 17300, many of them are not working on a daily basis. Abdo Amer sees this as the reality of the education sector in the governorate. Many of the teachers have left the sector to find some economic stability. Regarding Northern Aleppo, the teachers are not in a better situation, they receive very low wages in comparison to the relatively high cost of living.
In response to our questions regarding the local educational initiatives, he said “any community will collapse without education, and the next generation will lose their future”
It is important to say that civil initiatives to support education in Norther Syria is a vital corner stone in the continuation of the educational process, and their support has become an urgent necessity. Activists and teachers believe that local and international civil society organizations and government bodies operating in the North-west Syria should seek to support and encourage these initiatives, given their major role in supporting the continuation of the educational process in light of the lack of support provided.