THE WILL TO LEARN

Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria
Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria

REHABILITATED CLASSROOMS SUPPORTED THROUGH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND UNICEF IN SYRIA GIVES A BOY WITH A CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

‘I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn’ – Zakaria, 12.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Syria

As violence escalated in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria, almost five years ago, Zakaria and his family had nowhere else to go and chose to stay in their hometown of Al-Jaffrah.

When fighting destroyed the only school in town, Zakaria’s only alternative was to continue his learning by walking to a school in a nearby town, an hour away on foot.  However, born with a congenital heart disease, the daily walk of over eight kilometers proved

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.

arduous.

“I felt different from other kids who could walk to school easily over the long journey,” recalls Zakaria, now 12. Despite all the challenges Zakaria continued to walk to school, carrying his heavy school bag, but still determined to continue his learning to become a teacher when he grows up.

Thanks to funding through Education Cannot Wait’s Initial Investment in Syria, UNICEF and partners rehabilitated eight schools in Deir-ez-Zor, including 116 classrooms, allowing Zakaria and 3,500 other boys and girls to continue their learning. Since its start in April 2017, the US$15 million investment has reached 177,000 children, including 85,000 girls. To support the unique needs of children growing up in conflict, the programme has strengthened the capacity of the education system to ensure a timely and coordinated education response, improved equitable access to education and learning opportunities, and improved the quality and relevance of education within a more protective environment.

“I’m so happy to be back in my original school,” says Zakaria with a grin. “I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn.”

In 2019, 13 new schools are being rehabilitated in Deir-ez-Zor to ensure more children can return to their classrooms.

With the hard work of six international NGOs and 11 Syrian NGOs across the country, some 85,000 children have been enrolled and supported in education services to date. The programme also looks to empower teachers and communities. Since its start, some 2,600 teachers and other education personnel have received stipends and incentives, and 1,237 classrooms have been established or rehabilitated.

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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.

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.

BACK TO LEARNING

IN SYRIA, INNOVATIVE NEW APPROACHES GET CHILDREN BACK TO SCHOOL, BACK TO THE SAFETY AND PROMISE OF AN EDUCATION, AND BACK ON TRACK FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE

Photo Tarek in Homs
Tarek is back to learning and excelling at math and other studies. Photo UNICEF Syria.

IN SYRIA, INNOVATIVE NEW APPROACHES GET CHILDREN BACK TO SCHOOL, BACK TO THE SAFETY AND PROMISE OF AN EDUCATION, AND BACK ON TRACK FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE

Conflict is ripping Syria apart. It’s taking lives, uprooting families and leaving millions of girls and boys behind.

Efforts are underway to get these children back to learning. With the financial support of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in crisis hosted by UNICEF, a broad coalition of frontlines heroes, international partners and donors are joining forces to address the pressing humanitarian crisis that has left 2.1 million children out of school and 1.3 million at risk of dropping out.

HOPE FOR MORNING STAR

The children of Syria’s conflict have faces and names. One of these children is a bright 10-year-old boy named Tarek. The name means ‘Morning Star,’ a thoughtful designation in a place where dreams have been shattered for an entire generation.

Tarek has lived his life surrounded by conflict and violence. The boy who loved math and was an outgoing child when he was young, comes from the Al-Waer neighbourhood in the historic city of Homs, an area heavily affected by violence.

When he was six, a bullet ripped through Tarek’s room while he was sleeping. The trauma – and the unspeakable horror of seeing his father injured and losing other family members – left Tarek with a speech impediment.

Without support, Tarek likely would have fallen through the cracks.

“I did not have any friends and other children were making fun of me because of stuttering,” said Tarek. “I was always at home alone.”

With support from a 2-year US$15 million Education Cannot Wait initial investment launched in 2017, UNICEF partnered with international and local NGOs to create an educational programme to get children like Tarek back to learning.

In all, some 75,693 children have already been reached with back-to-learning campaigns. The programme reinforces the value of education and has provided psychosocial support for children like Tarek to get back on track.

Tarek enrolled in catch-up classes in math, Arabic and English, and is also attending group and private counseling sessions with the school’s counselor, Miss Nour.  The counselor worked with Tarek to improve his self-esteem and decrease his anxiety, which sometimes made it difficult for Tarek to see the difference between dreams and reality.

“[The counseling sessions] were one of the things I loved the most [about the programme],” said Tarek.

The boy now has “a lot of friends” and is excelling in his math studies.

Mohammad
Mohammad took remedial classes to get his studies back on track. Photo UNICEF Syria.

ACCELERATING EDUCATION

Mohammad is another victim of this senseless conflict that risked falling behind. He was forced to flee from his home town of Hama when he was just nine. Now 14, the highly gifted boy was seeing his grades slip.

“I used to be in the first place in my classes from grade 1 to grade 6, but changing residence had affected me,” said Mohammad.

With their home in Hama totally destroyed, Mohammad’s parents have limited resources to pay for school tuition.  Determined to “make up the gap” anyway, Mohammad began studying during the night to regain his grades, and signed up for a remedial education programme sponsored through the Education Cannot Wait initial investment.

“The timing of remedial classes was perfect as it prepared us to start formal school,” said Mohammad. During the programme, catch-up classes in core subjects were combined with group activities and counseling sessions to bolster students’ psychological wellbeing and teach study skills.

With this much-needed support, Mohammad significantly improved his grades, especially in English and French. He is now placed second in his class and has hatched plans to become a doctor one day. “This year, I’m trying hard to get full marks.”

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LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND

Due to renewed violence, 1.6 million people were displaced across Syria, with close to half a million people displaced in Northwest Syria in the first six months of 2018, including an estimated 150,000 children. Across Northeast Syria during 2018,  80,817 people were displaced, including 25,295 school-aged children.

The first response investment was in response to the 2017 displacement crisis across the north of Syria, which is being exacerbated by the continued flow of Internally Displaced People into the area.  To respond to the escalation of the crisis in these areas, Education Cannot Wait announced a 12-month US$3 million First Emergency Response allocation to meet the most pressing needs and build on the Fund’s initial investment.

The ongoing crisis means teachers aren’t getting paid, and girls and children with disabilities face additional barriers to go to school.

Thanks to the First Emergency Response, 202 teachers have already received incentives to teach, with plans to reach a total of 600 by the end of the programme. Schools have received heaters and fuel to keep children warm during the bitterly cold winter months. Girls and boys are being transported to school, including children with disabilities.

The needs are still great. As the investment scales-up and accelerates its support, 41 schools will be rehabilitated including 430 classrooms, 500 teachers will receive advanced training and 20,000 children will receive learning materials including textbooks.

Hala
Hala is back in school.

For displaced girls like seven-year-old Hala, the combination of counseling, remedial classes, and new learning opportunities means hope for a brighter future. Hala was out of school for an entire year. Now she’s back to learning and is one of the best students in her class.

“I love school more than my home. Here, I play with my friends. I study and learn Arabic, English and math. I have a dream of becoming a doctor so that I can treat children,” said Hala.