Originally posted on UNICEF MENA regional Website on 28 June 2018

Years of violent fighting have left more than one in three schools in Syria out of service; thousands of schools have been either destroyed, damaged or used as shelters for families who lost their homes. Massive internal displacement has also affected the education system.

Many schools are overcrowded from hosting additional children, impacting the overall quality of learning. Basic services, like electricity, are a challenge. Rationing and expensive fuel prices for generators mean that children often learn in dark classrooms.

One such school is Hafez Ibrahim School in east Aleppo; an old house, turned into a school long before the conflict. The school now welcomes over 390 of the most vulnerable children in the area.

Nour’s challenges go beyond her classroom. “My mother and sister work at a sewing workshop, but we never have enough income,” says Nour, 11, who attends Grade 5 in Hafez Ibrahim school. “So, I started working at the workshop too, I go every day after school,” she adds.

With support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF improved Nour’s school environment and ensured that her classroom is well lit. Her school was one of 30 schools in the city of Aleppo that received solar panels to generate electricity.

“Now, with the lights always on, I don’t have to stand next to the board to copy anymore!” says Nour. And she is eager to pursue her studies to become an architect in the future. “I want to rebuild our destroyed house, but with a better design!” she says cheerfully.

Almost two years ago, Abdulrahman’s home in east Aleppo was hit by a shell. He lost his left leg. “I was playing on the balcony and I saw a red spot heading towards me from the sky, growing bigger and bigger,” he recalls.

Despite his injury, Abdulrahman still plays football with his friends, using his crutches. He is also the fastest runner at his school. “I do not feel like I lost anything,” says Abdulrahman. “I play football, I run and I ride a bike,” he adds cheerfully.

Teachers at the school also appreciate the positive changes. “The solar panels made a great difference in our school,” says Rawad Hallak, a teacher at the school.

“Aside from lighting, we can use speakers, the projector, mega phones and other equipment which really help us do more activities for children,” he adds.

With ECHO’s contribution, over 25,000 children in Aleppo have benefited from improved access to quality learning, through the installation of solar panels and the provision of computer equipment.