Shaping the future of Syrian community through educationPublished: Oct 4, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
“Through investing in our children’s education, we shape the future of our community,” says Maisa, a principal and teacher at one of People in Need’s supported schools in Idlib, northwest Syria.
The current humanitarian situation in Syria presents a bleak image of children's futures, especially when focusing on their educational needs. Based on recent assessments, the nation is grappling with a pressing education crisis, further aggravated by the distressing exodus of qualified teachers in search of better opportunities abroad.
The Challenges and Triumphs of Syrian Educators
Teachers in Syria are often seen as the glimmer of hope, helping children dream beyond their challenging circumstances, guiding them through curriculums as well as the traumas of war. Yet, this guiding light is at risk. Many educators, integral to Syrian education, are leaving the country in search of stability, better opportunities, and a brighter future. This exodus stems from the immense challenges they encounter daily.
Maisa, a teacher in Idlib, sheds light on some of these challenges. She underscored the dire financial landscape for educators. "Some teachers are still working voluntarily, while the majority don't receive salaries during the three-month summer holiday," says Maisa. However, financial struggles aren't the only concern. The quality of education is also compromised. "For newly graduated teachers," Maisa pointed out, "there's a significant lack of proper training to enhance their teaching techniques."
Furthermore, educators grapple with outdated educational curricula, an absence of essential teaching tools, and the profound impact of challenging life conditions, including displacement, adding layers of complexity to their already demanding roles.
But what about the children?
The overall educational situation in Syria is chaotic. A staggering 6.7 million children urgently require emergency educational services. There's an alarming rise in the number of out-of-school children, with over two million between the ages of 6 and 17 currently not enrolled in any educational program. Furthermore, the foundational years are being overlooked: only 11% of four-year-olds, and 36% of five-year-olds, have participated in any form of preparatory learning. This lack of early education threatens their readiness for structured schooling in subsequent years.
The hardships of daily life in Syria have cast a shadow over the value of education. The interest in education among children and families continues to decline as living conditions worsen. Harsh realities have forced many out of school, with some families losing sight of education's long-term value.
“Displacement adds to the challenges," Maisa mentions, adding, "Older students, after years of educational gaps, often feel shy attending classes with much younger children. Thus, it's now common to find a fifteen-year-old child who can’t write.”
Students are facing their own set of doubts. Many begin to question the practicality of their lessons, pondering the real-world application of their education. The apprehension doesn't stop there. Over half of the school attendees raise concerns about unsatisfactory sanitation standards, spotlighting an environment less than ideal for learning.
The repercussions of these challenges extend beyond just the students. Teachers also shoulder a heavy burden, often left to navigate the education journey without the active involvement of many parents.
“Learning is an integrative process that requires cooperation between the teachers and the parents,” Maisa emphasizes. Furthermore, Maisa offers a clear perspective on the teacher's role: "Think of school as the children's second home," she suggests, "It's vital that we care for students as we do our own kids. Close engagement and guidance from teachers isn't an option; it's a responsibility." For her, education is pivotal in moulding the future.
Advocating for education
"Through investing in our children’s education, we shape the future of our community," says Maisa. This belief stands as a testament to the importance of fostering growth and development from a young age. Investing in education is not just about academic progress; it is about paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous community.
In line with this vision, People in Need, with support of our donor European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), has taken significant steps to uplift the education system in Syria by supporting both teachers and students, while creating a better learning environment. Under our recent initiative, we have successfully transitioned seven institutions from non-formal to formal education in the last academic year, positively impacting the lives of approximately 184 staff and ensuring that around 3,000 students receive the support and quality education they deserve.
By driving these changes, we aim to do more than foster personal growth; we are building the cornerstone for a stronger community. We believe that by supporting educational initiatives, we're not just enriching individual lives but also enhancing the overall living conditions of the community.
As Ms. Maisa observes, "The development of the living conditions of the community in general can help improve the condition of the educational process." Our efforts are aimed toward ensuring that every child and teacher is provided an environment conducive to learning, thereby paving the path to a brighter collective future.