Amidst the ruins of the Syrian civil war, underpaid teachers in Syrian schools risk their lives and teach children in damaged classrooms.
You would have heard of parents dealing with children who are reluctant to go to school. But have you heard of parents of an entire country keeping their children at home in order to avoid school?
You would have seen classrooms with neatly arranged desks, and walls adorned with students’ artwork. But have you seen classrooms with walls bearing bullet marks?
You would have heard of disaster management drills being performed at schools once in a while. But have you heard of schools where children have to cope with real, man-made disasters, almost on a daily basis?
These situations are part of the sad reality in Syria. The civil war that began in the country in 2012 has been the reason for its constant turmoil for over five years now. Neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and parts of Europe have been affected too. However, Syria, the base of the war, has been affected the most, with hundreds of lives being lost every day. Amidst this crisis, the nation’s underpaid teachers quietly carry on with their responsibilities from one day to the next.
Children are among the most affected, during any war. Further, among the various sectors that have been impacted by Syria’s nation-wide unrest, education has been one of the most affected. These two factors combined, have put the lives of Syrian children in severe uncertainty and distress. While many children have not been enrolled in schools, many who have been admitted are being prevented by their worried parents from attending school. Some children have started working to support their families, while some children are even being married off. However, education in Syria still sees a ray of hope, thanks to the dedicated teachers, who continue to impart education to children in schools.
A lot of Syrian schools are almost unrecognisable, both from the outside and inside-- as are many prominent buildings in the country. Classes are conducted in disfigured classrooms, in basements, or in the open, among the debris and rubble of the ruined buildings. These are the settings where one would witness the most heart-warming scenes- teachers tutoring displaced or refugee children, despite bombings and airstrikes!
‘It seems like this war will drag on, and we cannot have our children growing without an education’, they say. The role of teachers also become paramount in Syria because only a small portion of the funds allotted to crisis management is being presently spent on education. There are teachers who have not been paid for over six months. The family members of few teachers have been arrested by the ISIS for a long while. Despite these odds, the teachers brave on with determination, day after day.
A Syrian classroom could surprise one, as its strength often leans toward the extremities. While some classes have only a handful of students, few classrooms in refugee camps have ONE teacher addressing about 120 students! These large numbers are due to the insufficient number of schools in Syria, to accommodate the refugee children. When these children are questioned about their ambitions in life, one gets the most surprisingly cheerful replies. While some aim to become history teachers to tell the future generations about their childhood in Syria, some want to become engineers to rebuild their crippled country. Others want to become surgeons to relieve humankind of suffering.
It is in these times, that one realizes the true objective of the struggles of these teachers-- to create a younger generation filled with hope and positivity. Attending school provides Syrian children with a certain degree of normalcy in their lives, which allows them to envision a peaceful future for Syria. In turn, this effect on the psyche of these children also holds the possibility of influencing the lives of the adults around them.
Thus, these Syrian teachers are no less than soldiers who put their life on the line for their country. We salute all the teachers around the world who see their profession as a responsibility, and not a duty.