Deteriorating education in Al-Raqqah | Poor services, lack of well-qualified staff and dire living conditions force many to drop out • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Deteriorating education in Al-Raqqah | Poor services, lack of well-qualified staff and dire living conditions force many to drop out

In 2013, opposition factions, including Islamist and jihadi groups, captured Al-Raqqah city, before they were expelled by ISIS a few months later. For years, ISIS has wreaked havoc and changed the fabric society in Al-Raqqah city, until 2017 when the organisation was eliminated in the city by SDF and the International Coalition following fierce and devastating battles. These battles and shifts of control and influences for nearly ten years have affected and hit hard all sectors in Al-Raqqah city, especially education.


Activists in Al-Raqqah have confirmed that education was suspended during the period of the control of the “Free Army” and ISIS, where schools were turned into prisons and military headquarters.


Speaking to SOHR, a 14-year-old boy known as Nawwaf Al-Ahmed working in a mechanic shop in Al-Raqqah city said, “I was in the first year of school when military factions stormed Al-Raqqah city. My school, “Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya” school, was turned into a headquarters of “Shuhadaa Uhod” battalions, so I was not able to complete the primary stage, especially since my family was forced to displace from the city. Accordingly, my father was forced to make me learn a craft, and I started working in a motor store. After we had returned to Al-Raqqah city, I wanted to attain education, but I faced learning difficulties and I did not join any literacy courses at that time.”


SOHR activists have confirmed that two thirds of working children have not undergone any educational programs or sessions contributing to providing them with general knowledge and information or helping them to resume their education, after having dropped out of schools for years, and this has led to the rampant illiteracy and child labour.


The mother of a 14-year-old girl known as “Soher,” who is a student in grade five and fluent in English and French, clarified that she transferred her daughter to a private school to resume her education and made her join extra-curricular courses at home. Soher’s mother confirmed that her daughter had applied to a school near her house, but her education achievement started to decline. In addition, she started to repeat “swear words,” as the teachers in this school were poorly qualified, according to the mother.


According to SOHR activists in Al-Raqqah, officials responsible for education affairs in the city are not graduates of the faculties of education and arts, while many are graduates of high schools, so they are not qualified teachers.


A teacher nicknamed “Aghid Al-Hasan” working in a school in Al-Raqqah city told SOHR, “the dire living conditions of most of the poor families in Al-Raqqah city have prompted parents to force their children to leave schools, especially since students have dropped out of schools for over five years; this, in turn, contributed to the prevalence of illiteracy among the students of primary and preparatory schools. Students who have dropped out of schools and are from extremely poor families have received no support from authorities responsible for education in Al-Raqqah city or organisations operating in the city. While the organisations’ activities have been confined to staging parties and festivals on Children’s Day.”


A former official in the education committee who preferred not to reveal her real name in order to ensure anonymity and chose the nickname “Ibtesam Saleh,” has confirmed that the deterioration of education in Al-Raqqah city is attributed to several factors, the most prominent of which is the fact that organisations provide financial support to stage only social activities, disregarding the poor education services and lack of facilities, especially in poor neighbourhoods. In addition, most of the families are not content with the UNICEF curriculum adopted by the Autonomous Administration in areas under its control, as the official said.


The former official added, “in all third-world countries financial support is distributed to poor families, students and individuals with special needs. However, there are no programs provided by organisations to support students and encourage them to return to their schools and resume education. This has spurred poor families to turn to teach their children various crafts.”