New school year in Syria: Damaged schools, multiple curricula, and millions of children without education
One of the major problems the educational sector in Syria is facing is the increase in the number of children who have dropped out of school, with last year's percentage officially reaching more than 22%.
At the beginning of September, more than 3 million and 700 thousand Syrian students from various educational levels headed to their schools, which numbered 14,505 in all governorates.
The Ministry of Education asked school principals not to be strict about school uniforms, provided that they are appropriate, and to reduce the necessary stationery for students and be content with what is necessary as much as possible.
Charitable organizations and civil and community initiatives provided school bags, school uniforms, stationery, and books to ease the burden on needy families in light of the deteriorating economic conditions resulting from the American blockade imposed on the country.
The schoolbag; a dream for Syrian children
"I paid my entire salary," Noha, a teacher in a high school in Damascus, told Al Mayadeen English.
The forty-year-old woman bought her daughter's school supplies, including a school bag and stationery, from al-Khaja popular souq.
She said, "The advent of the school year has become a difficult occasion for families, due to the high cost of living and the rise in study costs to unprecedented levels, I borrowed some money from my friend, waiting for a money transfer from my expatriate brother in Germany."
Each student in Syria needs more than 500,000 Syrian pounds, equivalent to approximately 31 dollars, to buy school supplies, at a time when the salary of a government employee reaches the equivalent of only 15 dollars.
This year, Noha was unable to buy a new school uniform for her daughter.
Rather, she resorted to one of the used clothing groups on Facebook in order to obtain pieces that may still be in good condition. She concluded her speech by saying, "We know our children's feelings and desires. We were children too and were fascinated by new clothes, school bags, and colored pencils... but what can we do in such a situation?! The simplest things became our dreams."
Percentage of Syrian children dropping out of school on the rise
Official statistics say more than 10,000 schools were damaged by the war, half of them completely destroyed, which constitutes about 42% of the total number of schools before 2011.
Although the Syrian government was able, during the period that followed the stabilization of the security situation in many regions, to rehabilitate and repair many schools, the number of which reached about 7,372 in 2018, however, the difficult return of many of the displaced to their governorate and the desire of others to remain in the areas to which they have been displaced due to economic reasons cause constant pressure on the school structures in zones that have maintained their stability throughout the years of the crisis.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Education, the earthquake that hit Syria on the sixth of last February killed 37 teachers and damaged 5,595 schools.
The educational sector in Syria faces a major problem, which is the increase in the number of children who have dropped out of school, with last year's percentage officially reaching more than 22% - an increase of about 50% over the previous year - while UNICEF estimated the number of children out of school in Syria to be at more than 2.4 million children, 40% of them are girls. The organization added in a statement, "As for children who are able to attend school, they often learn in overcrowded classrooms and in buildings that do not have sufficient water, sanitation, electricity, heating or ventilation facilities."
It is noteworthy that education is free in Syrian public schools, and the compulsory education law, applied in Syria since the eighties, obliges every parent of every child from kindergarten to twelfth grade, to educate their children. Failure to do so subjects parents to imprisonment or penalty.
Curricula vary depending on the controlling militias
Syria also faces the problem of multiple curricula, as they differ according to the dominant militias, each of which seeks to program the thoughts and convictions of children according to its own agenda.
For example, in the areas controlled by the SDF, a curriculum has been adopted. It exacerbates nationalism and sectarian conflict in society and tampers with the culture and history of the region.
It imposed educational curricula in the Kurdish language that are consistent with its political vision, which glorifies the symbols of the Kurdish organizations, tells the stories of some of its fighters, and presents them as martyrs and heroes.
The national education subject was canceled and another subject was replaced and imposed, called "Democratic Nation," which includes a collection of ideas by Abdullah Öcalan.
The history subject was completely changed, as it now included lessons on the history of the Kurds and Assyrians in the region, without mentioning the Umayyad and Abbasid history. The Islamic education subject was also canceled, and a "Culture and Ethics" subject was created, which included research that glorified nature and other research on ancient pagan religions.
As for the geography subject, it includes maps of the so-called Kurdistan, which included northern Syria from Al-Malikiyah to the Mediterranean in the west, southern and eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and western Iran.
These curricula are not recognized or certified, which prevents students from the region from entering Syrian universities or universities in other countries, and made many local residents choose internal displacement to areas of the Syrian state or areas where the UNICEF curriculum is taught as a solution to their children’s problem.
In areas controlled by Turkish-backed armed factions, educational curricula were printed in Turkish.
Since 2016, the educational system in northwestern Syria has become affiliated with Turkish educational institutions.
Schools are named after members of the Turkish army killed, and a special subject is taught on "the history of the Syrian revolution" from the Turkish point of view.
Students are also forced to learn the Turkish language as part of the Turkification policy of this region.
As for the Syrian teachers, the main condition for renewing their contracts is also their proficiency in the Turkish language.