Syrian Students; getting ready to go back to school

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By Yasmine Saker

Tartous, 8 September, 2015- “I want to learn and become successful so that no one looks down at me,” said 13 year old Khadija, staring at the white board where her teacher was explaining the English verb “to do”.

Khadija moved with her family from Aleppo six months ago and settled in Bseireh, a village in the coastal governorate of Tartous. Back in Aleppo, she missed almost two years of school due to the deteriorating security situation there.

“We could not leave the house at all, my family told me to forget about school but I never did.” She explained. “After settling here, I heard about this school club giving summer classes to prepare for the coming school year and I told my parents; I’m going no matter what!” At 13 and according to the Syrian education system, Khadija is supposed to be starting the 8th grade. However, she is now studying the curriculum of the 6th grade. Khadija wants to be a paediatrician when she grows up “to help all the children of Syria be happy and healthy!”

UNICEF currently supports more than 100 school clubs in Lattakia and Tartous governorates, reaching close to 30,000 children aged 5 to 15 with remedial classes and recreational activities. Operating in actual schools or pre-fabricated classrooms in shelters for internally displaced families, the summer school clubs help students improve their performance and catch up on their learning, especially those who have been out of school. Remedial classes focus on four main subjects: Arabic, English, science and mathematics.
“School clubs are vital in providing children with a safe environment where they learn at their own pace,” said Reema Istanbuli, UNICEF Education Officer. “They are also important for their psychosocial well-being as they provide them with a positive space where they socialize with their peers and enjoy recreational activities such as music and sports.” She added.

On a sunny dusty road, Mahmoud, 14, and his younger brother Adham, 12, walk together every day for almost one hour to reach the school club in Darti village in Tartous. Mahmoud left school for a year to help his father in his car repair workshop.

“I used to dislike school and I was ecstatic to drop out, but when I saw how happy my younger brother was, coming to the school club, I thought to myself; if this young one can walk for an hour to come and learn and make friends, why can’t I –the man- do it?” Mahmoud asked with a wink and a side glance to Adham. “I then talked to my father and he welcomed the idea. I started coming to the school club in preparation for the upcoming school year.”

Mahmoud and Adham both want to be engineers because it was their father’s dream to become one.

“My friends and I used to make fun of my older brother for being in the same class with us in grade 7,” said Adham. “But then I realized that he wants to come back to school so bad that he is willing to have younger classmates, and he became my role model.”

©UNICEF Syria/2015/Saker. Jana (left) and her 4th grade friends contemplate a math problem in their pre-fabricated class room in Al-Karnak IDP shelter, Tartous.