Deteriorating education in Homs | Destroyed schools and economic hardship force children to drop out of school
Every morning, streets in the industrial area in Homs city become packed with tens of children heading to their work in workshops and plants, with plastic bags in their hands containing their lunch.
On the other hand, tens of medium school students are seen heading to Ibn Roshd school near the eastern entrance of the industrial area in Homs.
This scene, which shows children having found themselves forced to work at such a young age in order to provide for their families and other children whose families still having financial abilities enabling them to continue their education, indicates to the worrying gaps among the segments of Syrian society which have been growing for the past 11 years.
With grease staining his face, a 14-year-old skinny boy known as “Mohamed” has told SOHR that he was forced to drop out of school and search for work to provide for his family, as he is now working in a workshop for repairing cars for a wage of 20,000 SYP, equivalent to four USD. Mohamed has conveyed the view of his father who sees that learning at schools does not make money, and that it is better for Mohamed to learn a craft enabling him to own a workshop in the future and earn much money.
On the other hand, the owner of a fizzy-drink factory in the industrial area nicknamed as “Abu Amjad” has told SOHR that there are 11 children working in his factory, clarifying that he work on developing their experience by maintaining them on the section of production, where work in this section does not require hard effort. The man stresses that the presence of those children diverts him from hiring young men who ask for higher wages.
One of the children working in the factory has told SOHR that the employer bring the children out of the factory when other plant owners inform him that a committee of the directorate of social insurance and labour, which prevent the labour of children aged below eighteen under penalty of accountability, conduct inspection tours in factories. Accordingly, the plant’s owner can evade accountability in the case that any of the children sustain a work injury.
Speaking to SOHR, Ahmed says that he goes every day with his younger brother, Ammar, to the house of their neighbour who takes them to the tile plant in Al-Helaliya area in order to help him in breaking cobblestones and prepare powder required to make tiles. The two brothers are also tasked with pile tiles outside the plant. Despite their weak bodies, the two brothers have been working in this plant for three years, during which they have gained experience in this business. The two brothers are given a daily wage estimated to be a third of the plant’s profit, according to an agreement reached between them and the plant’s owner.
Ahmed says, “this work is very hard, and my father suffers form a spinal disc herniation because of this work and now he is unable to do any work requires physical effort. Working in other fields is easier, but wages are relatively low and cannot be enough for securing basic essentials, so my brother and I dropped out of school three years ago and started working in this plant.”
A petrol-chemical engineer known as Bashir, aka “Abu Ali,” from Homs city has told SOHR that he has got his university degree, after staying for additional years studying in the university. However, the man neither could find a job opportunity or legally immigrate to another country, because he passed their date of joining the mandatory service to regime’s security branches. Bashir also stressed that he does not want to join mandatory service in the ranks of regime forces, clarifying that he does not oppose or support the Syrian regime, but he does not want to waste additional nine years in military service.
On the International Day of Education, UNICEF issued a joint statement, declaring that there are more than 2,400,000 Syrian children, 40 percent of whom are girls, failed to attain education and dropped out of schools. The statement also referred to the fact that only one of every three schools is qualified for education and schooling, because of the considerable destruction which inflected a large number of schools across the entire Syrian geography, as well as turning many schools into military headquarters and prisons. Meanwhile, children who want to continue their education are obligated to study in crowded classrooms at schools which lack the minimum standards of services, including sewer systems, facilities, electricity and heating.
SOHR sources in Homs have documented the destruction of tens of schools of primary and middle stages due to the systematic bombardment by regime forces during the opposition rebel factions’ control of many parts across the province, before regime forces, with the help of Iranian-backed militias, managed to capture the entire province. Meanwhile, the destroyed schools remain evidence proving the violations committed against educational facilities and institutions by all conflicting powers, which robbed Syrian children from their right to attain education.