With less than 3,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, Syria has one of the lowest publicly reported coronavirus infections in the region. But some of the country’s leading doctors say those official numbers are far from reality and almost every house in Damascus has a coronavirus patient.
In that context, and despite families and doctors warning against a pending catastrophe, Syria’s school and universities are scheduled to re-open in the coming weeks.
In mid-March, Syria’s universities and schools closed as a part of a lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic. Universities re-opened for in the beginning of June with an intensive teaching schedule and lectures to compensate for the lost time.
Professors uploaded some lectures online during the lockdown, but the Ministry of Higher Education required all content delivered online to be repeated in person for students who didn’t have access to the internet. Second semester exams started around mid-August, with calls to postpone them being dismissed.
“There were many proposed solutions; either postponing the whole school year and that would have created many problems next year, or waiting for a while and see how the pandemic would develop and react according to that, and we found that this was the best solution,” said Sahar Al-Fahoum, deputy minister for scientific research affairs at Syria’s higher education ministry.
Al-Fahoum said both the ministry and the government team assigned to curbing the virus had watched how the world was dealing with the pandemic and how most countries had to open eventually. The ministry imposed precautionary measures in universities such as widespread cleaning and sanitizing and offering more space to make social distancing possible, Al-Fahoum added.