Education under the Syrian revolution, and the role of civil society organizations

اعداد هبة دباس | تحرير هبة دباس | ترجمة محمد غيث | تحرير الترجمة Freda Hocaine 🕔 تم النشر بتاريخ : 6 أبريل، 2018 2:13:08 م تقرير موضوعي اجتماعيفن وثقافة ثقافة

The right for all children to have access to education was approved and adopted by the the United Nations in 1990. Despite this, around two million Syrian children have been deprived of this right, in addition to a further half a million facing the threat of soon losing access to it, according to statistics published by UNICEF on Jan. 31, 2017. War, violence, displacement, the bombing of schools, and military campaigns perpetrated by Russian-backed Syrian government forces, have all played important factors in depriving school education to children since the start of the Syrian Revolution.

Arresting students and teachers, and the deterioration of the educational sector in the first two years of the revolution:

Since the revolution in Syria first broke out in 2011, students from schools and universities variously participated in peaceful demonstrations, organized “sit-ins” and education strikes, all protesting against the Syrian government’s adoption of oppressive tactics such as the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of students and teachers. The Syrian government’s oppression clearly left its mark on education in Syria, as most students did not attend school between 2011-2013.

Statistical and media reports show that out of five million students and 365 teachers all over Syria, only 23 percent attended school in the 2012-2013 school term. Moreover, 2,360 schools were destroyed partially or completely, all of which were located in areas outside of Syrian government’ forces’ control. Reports and statistics further depicted that around 2,000 schools were used as shelters for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as military outposts for areas controlled by the Syrian government.

The Syrian government has intentionally decreased its education budget since the start of the revolution. In 2011, the budget decreased by about ten billion Syrian pounds compared to the previous year. In 2012, the budget decreased by a further seven billion Syrian pounds, according to the then extant Syrian government Ministry of Education. The Syrian government has intentionally suspended teachers’ salaries in areas outside of Syrian government forces’ control, and it has also moved those teachers who are pro-Syrian government teachers out from the area, thereby creating an intense shortage of educational staff.     

In late 2012, the United Nations documented the depriving of more than three million Syrian children from the right to education all over the country.

Individual attempts to develop education amidst lack of organization and support:

After the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its expansion all over the country to areas outside of Syrian government forces’ control, there emerged a concerted effort by volunteer teachers, educational employees, and students of universities to contain the crisis of education. The volunteers opened basic school buildings, and attempted to make up for the two years of absence from education that the children had experienced, especially those in the elementary grade. However, the volunteers lacked organization and support which made it further difficult to provide educational courses.

These difficulties persisted despite the formation of the Educational Office of the Syrian National Coalition in early 2013, which critically failed to control the educational sector or provide it with necessary support because of sparse resources. The Syrian Interim Government of the National Coalition formed “Free Education Directorates” all over the “liberated areas”, but also did not receive the necessary support required for it to thrive. They did however, manage to succeed in forming an initial structure to hold the education system.

The role of civil society organizations in supporting alternative pedagogical praxis:

In 2015, the “citizens for Syria” website documented 850 extant civil society organizations all operating in Syria, out of which only ten specialized in supporting education for children. The rest of the organizations were dedicated to the fields of aid, health, and law.

In the last three years, different organizations specializing in supporting education partially or completely all over FSA-controlled areas have provided material and in-kind support to rehabilitate schools and to continue the educational process. Other organizations took the initiative to provide salaries for some teachers as “quarterly grants”, and sometimes provided fixed monthly salaries under temporary annual contracts.

These organizations coordinate with the “Free Education Directorates” which act as a supervisor and organizer. Muhammad al-Hussein, director of the “Free Education Directorate of Idlib”, described the relation between the two sides “participatory and of high-profile coordination”. The organization provides financial support, while the directorate supervises, directs, and runs the pedagogical process at the educational premises.

Al-Hussein told SMART that “the Ministry of Education of the Syrian Interim Government is unable to support any single school due to its almost negligible level of capability”. He added that most of the support received comes not from the ministry, but from direction donations to the directorate”.

Bombing of schools and lack of support are the most prominent difficulties faced by alternative education:

The Russian-backed Syrian government forces deliberately bombed schools and educational facilities in various Syrian governorates, killing and injuring dozens of students and teachers and suspending schools for successive periods of time. Continuous bombings also drain material resources and financial support, especially as damaged schools must be rehabilitated, sometimes several times.

In February 2018, the Russian-backed Syrian government’s military operation against the Idlib governorate caused 1,267 schools to close. In late February, all the schools of Eastern Ghouta closed because of a military campaign which ended in the displacement of civilians from the area.  

The Ministry of Education of the Syrian Interim Government supervises 2,280 schools, all of which are distributed across the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Rif Dimashq, Daraa, and Quneitra, as well as in educational centers in the Lebanese town of Arsal, where it teaches the curriculum of the interim government (an amended curriculum that is different from the Syrian government’s curriculum and rules out the subject of nationalism).

According to the Minister of Education of the Syrian Interim Government, D.r. Imad Baraq, the ministry lacks funds and does not receive support from the Syrian government. He added that the role of the ministry is limited to coordination with civil society organizations, which support management and directive processes, as well as salaries and the rehabilitation of schools etc.

Muhammad al-Hussein, the assistant manager of the Free Idlib Education Directorate, stated that the directorate suffers from a significant budget deficit when it comes to providing salaries for teachers, and its ability to rehabilitate schools or provide necessities. The financial deficit, lack of permanent support, and unstable security situation are the most prominent challenges facing the educational sector in Idlib. Idlib also lacks having enough schools, as many buildings which were previously schools have now been converted into shelters for internally displaced persons.  

Education directorates and local councils appealed to concerned civil society and international organizations, urging them to support the educational sector in its efforts to comprise of at least the most basic of elements.

In addition, the alternative education sector faces the difficulties of high student numbers opting to drop out of schools for many reasons, the most prominent of these being child labor and lack of educational curriculums. SMART has previously published detailed reports concerning the difficulties and challenges of each of these factors.

Statistics:

Since the early 2013 establishment of educational directorates, around 5,133 schools have been opened in the areas controlled by the the FSA factions and Islamist battalions, as well as in the Lebanese town of Arsal. Altogether, the schools comprise around 846,492 students.

Idlib alone includes 396, 375 students from all school-grades. The students are distributed across 1,135 schools, only 238 of which are supported with salaries by civil society organizations. These statistics do not include the 236 schools that went out of service because of Russian and Syrian government bombings. Nor do they include the 138 schools that are located in the area east of the “railway“, which the Syrian government forces gained control during their most recent military campaign on Idlib (according to Muhammad al-Hussein, the Assistant Manager of the Idlib Free Education Directorate).

In Idlib alone, the Syrian government forces have bombed 711 schools since the start of the revolution. Another 120 schools stopped functioning due to lack of support and the steady drop-out of students from school due to displacement, according to al-Hussein.

Al-Hussein noted that the Syrian government is still supervising and working in 212 schools in Idlib, and that around 10,000 teachers are still receiving monthly salaries from the government. Further, there are participatory schools where teachers receive salaries from both the Free Education Directorate and the Syrian government at the same time.

Numbers for schools across the Syrian governorates, are as follows: 585 in Daraa, 192 in Homs, 822 in Aleppo, 232 in Hama, 207 in Damascus, 73 in Quneitra, 1 in Sweidas. Finally, there are 23 schools for the Syrian coast education directorate, which exists in the Idlib countryside.

الاخبار المتعلقة

اعداد هبة دباس | تحرير هبة دباس | ترجمة محمد غيث | تحرير الترجمة Freda Hocaine 🕔 تم النشر بتاريخ : 6 أبريل، 2018 2:13:08 م تقرير موضوعي اجتماعيفن وثقافة ثقافة
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