Quake strains northwest Syria’s education system but students dream on
Damage from last month’s Turkiye-Syria earthquake is exerting new pressure on northwestern Syria’s already strained education sector.
Harem, a city in Idlib, an opposition-held territory, was hit particularly badly by the quake.
Mohamed Al-Khatib is a quake survivor and local headteacher at Harem Rural School.
The three-building school he runs is one of the many educational facilities that the quake damaged and rendered unusable.
“One of the buildings (the school) is an old French building dating 100 years back to the French occupation,” Al-Khatib told Arab News.
“This great ancient French building has unfortunately been greatly affected and thus, we couldn’t receive our students, as it poses a great risk to them.”
According to Al-Khatib, about 49 schools in the area are now unusable.
The deaths of many teachers in the quake is another tragic reality that the education system is facing in the aftermath of the disaster.
“We have unfortunately lost many of them in the earthquake, while others have been greatly injured. Our school director, the late Prof. Mohammed Suleiman, was also a victim of the earthquake,” Al-Khatib said.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that in northwest Syria, a total of 323 education facilities were damaged by the quake.
According to the OCHA, 20 of the schools deemed safe to use have been converted into temporary shelters for the displaced, leaving students unable to attend classes.
The quake added new strain on an education system that was already overburdened before the earthquake with a loss of teachers, lack of funding, overcrowded classrooms and damaged infrastructure as a result of the country’s more than decade-long civil war.
Despite the back-to-back crises, children in northwestern Syria are remaining hopeful for the future.
“I am now going to school without fearing the occurrence of an earthquake. I am studying and dreaming about becoming an engineer after graduation,” eight-year-old schoolboy Bilal told Arab News.
He witnessed the quake toppling buildings in his neighborhood and had to relocate schools after his own home was damaged by the quake.
Athna, a 10-year-old schoolgirl who also witnessed the quake firsthand, is also clinging on to hope.
Before the earthquake, she was one of the top students in her class, but is now unable to resume learning.
With an enthusiastic tone, Athna told Arab News: “I wish to become a successful doctor in the future.”