Thousands of children in the Syrian governorate of Idlib will not be attending school this year due to the continued military escalation in the region.
More than half of schools in northwestern Syria are damaged, abandoned or used as shelters, Save the Children Federation said in a statement released this month. “The situation in Idlib is tragic for thousands of recently displaced children who may be unable to enroll in school at the start of the new school year,” said Joelle Bassoul, a spokesperson for the organization in the Middle East, in an interview.
Syrian teachers working near Idlib who were interviewed separately by Al-Fanar Media supported the Save the Children perspective.
Over the past four months, fighting and airstrikes have forced people to leave 17 towns in northwestern Syria, and nearly half a million people have been displaced to the border region near Turkey and north of Idlib. With the start of the new school year, the remaining schools can only accommodate up to 300,000 students, out of 650,000 school-age children, according to Save the Children. Of Idlib’s 1,193 schools, 635 are still functioning, 353 are abandoned or destroyed, and 205 are used as shelters to house those displaced by the war.
“If the military escalation intensifies, this number will increase as other schools will be closed or destroyed,” said Bassoul.
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Of course, many parents today are afraid to send their children to school.
“Teachers are telling us that parents are pleading with them to shut schools for fear of them being attacked,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria director, in a statement. “Many children are dealing with losing their homes, loss and grief. They should not have to fear losing their lives while they try to learn,” she added.
Ahlam al-Rasheed, an Arabic teacher in the Idlib countryside, understands parents’ fear. “Parents are afraid about their children being kidnapped or bombed,” she said in an interview. “They are also unable to afford food and school supplies.”
When students can get to schools, they face difficult conditions. Students often study in basements or unheated rooms and lack desks, books and other basic supplies, along with psychological support. “The majority of the buildings are damaged and do not accommodate all students,” she said. “The situation is very bad.”