Summer Clubs in Aleppo Help Children Catch Up on Education

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By Razan Rashidi with input from UNICEF Aleppo hub

Aleppo, 9 September 2015- Mohammed, 11, dropped out of school two years ago as the conflict erupted in his neighborhood; Al-Salheen in the eastern part of Aleppo. The area is now a frontline of one of the most brutal war zones in Syria. “Apparently, Mohammed has post-trauma speech problems,” Fatima, Mohammad’s teacher told us.

“His speech problem used to be worse, especially when talking to teachers. Mohammed is doing much better now especially when communicating with his peers”, she added. Since the beginning of this summer holiday, Mohammed has been attending one of the many UNICEF-supported summer school clubs in Aleppo.

“Finally, I can come to school and learn and also play”, Mohammed said.

UNICEF supports 95 school clubs in Aleppo city and its rural surroundings. Those provide remedial education and recreational activities to more than 50,000 children.

“To address the high dropout rates in areas like Aleppo, UNICEF organizes remedial sessions where children can catch up with their peers on core subjects and return to schools in new academic year”, said Ahmedou Ould Sidi Ould Bahah, UNICFE Chief of Field Office in Aleppo.

Teachers who are involved in the process confirm that they see a difference.

“School clubs help a lot in filling the educational gaps of children and provide them with the opportunity to remedy what they missed during times of conflict. Mohammed, for example, missed two years of schooling but now he is getting the chance to catch up with his peers and return to his original grade in the coming school year,” said one teacher.

“UNICEF also provided stationery and school bags to children attaining the school clubs with the support of many donors like EU-DEVCO and US Fund”, Bahah commented.

Joudi and Rayan built a strong friendship this summer. The two girls are supposed to be in grade eight, but now they attend the sixth grade classes because they both missed two years of education.

“My parents were afraid to let me go out to school as our area was dangerous”, said Rayan. Eventually, Rayan and her family had to flee their neighborhood and moved to a safer location where she joined a summer school club and met new friends.

“The club gets us out of the mood of war we live in. It is all about studying and playing here,” Joudi added. Ahmad and his family left their home in Salah Addin to resettle in a village near Aleppo where there were no functioning schools. Ahmad worked there as a tailor’s assistant.

“Next school year I will be very good in English classes and students won’t laugh at me,” Ahmad assured. “I like coming here. Now I understand English and Science, and I am so happy because I learn and have fun”.

Regardless of the hot weather, the playground of the Saker Quraish School is busy with children running and racing. “Recreational activities enhance children’s creativity and build their resilience capacities,” little Fatima said.

In addition to sports, school clubs also provide different recreational activities such as drawing and music. “I like drawing and music; we sing with the teacher but I wish we had a piano or a keyboard” said Shahed, 8 years at Subhi Dayeh School which is hosting 350 children in the school club this summer.

Zein, a first grade student attends a remedial class session at Saker Quraish School club supported by UNICEF ©UNICEF/Syria/Aleppo/2015/ Khudr Al-Iss