Hamzeh, 15, Douma, East Ghouta. All photos © UNICEF/Syria/2020/Malas

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNICEF’s Curriculum B and inclusive school rehabilitation are supporting children with disabilities in accessing quality educational opportunities

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Sandra Awad and Tarek Jacob, UNICEF. View Original.

“I feel very lonely at times,” stuttered Hamzeh, 15, who lost his three brothers as well as other family members and friends, to the conflict in Syria. “I miss the days when the whole family gathered in the yard of our old house.”

Despite losing their home, the family never left their city, remaining in the Syrian town of Douma in East Ghouta, even throughout five harsh years of siege between 2013 and 2018.

Born with paralysis in his lower body and poor verbal articulation capabilities, Hamzeh’s ability to talk further deteriorated during the besiegement in East Ghouta, particularly after he witnessed the death of his siblings.

Back in 2013, a shell hit the family’s home causing the death of his brothers and forcing Hamzeh and his parents out of the house. They took shelter in a small room on land his father owned in Douma. Because of ongoing violence, Hamzeh had to also drop out of school in the second grade.

For years, his determination to resume learning kept Hamzeh hopeful.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; but being in school would give meaning to my life,” he said.

In 2018, as violence subsided in East Ghouta, he went back to school and has been catching up on his education with the help of UNICEF’s Curriculum B programme. This accelerated learning programme combines two academic years in one and allows children who missed out on periods of learning to catch up with their peers in half the required time.

“I pushed my son to continue his studies after his father’s death, and I do the same with Hamzeh and my other students. I believe that education is a solution for the hardships we have been through,” said Inaam, Hamzeh’s teacher.

First grade students attending an Arabic class in January 2020 in a school rehabilitated by UNICEF.

“Two years ago, the school building was severely damaged. Stone and metal parts could fall at any moment. Students and staff could get hurt,” said Inaam. “Hamzeh’s mother was worried about his accessibility and movement inside the building, but eventually his insistence convinced his parent to send him to school.”

“I was delighted to see the spacious bathroom and try the special pathway to class, constructed for children in wheelchairs like me,” said Hamzeh about UNICEF’s school rehabilitation works that were concluded in his school at the beginning of 2020. “Classes looked grim before, but now they’re colourful and much more pleasant.”

The rehabilitation works included painting classrooms, corridors and entrances, replacing and repairing damaged doors, windows and ceilings, as well as improving playgrounds and installing playground equipment, while ensuring an inclusive environment to support accessibility for children with physical disabilities. This rehabilitation also provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities.

In rural Damascus, with thanks to generous contributions from Japan, Educate A Child, the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), Education Cannot Wait, Norway and France, since 2019, UNICEF has been able to reach 36,000 children through its school rehabilitation. Approximately 2,000 children have been reached with the Curriculum B programme thanks to support from Educate A Child.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

The rehabilitation provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities, much needed support for when children return to school from the COVID-19 pandemic.


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