UNICEF provides schoolgirls with a safer education environment in war-torn Aleppo
By Basma Ourfali
In one of the world’s most dangerous cities, #ChildrenofSyria living in Aleppo are determined to continue their education despite the dangers that surround them. The neighbourhood known as 1070 in western Aleppo is home to thousands of families displaced by Syria’s long running conflict. Schools are stretched accommodating children who have been displaced.
The local girls’ school is the only intermediate school in the neighbourhood and most students are from families who have been displaced. UNICEF constructed prefabricated classrooms to create space and a better learning environment for the school’s 670 students.
UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer visited the school in February, to meet with students and teachers. Sixteen-year-old Ahlam told Ms. Singer about students’ fear about snipers in nearby buildings. “We can’t spend time out of the classroom. The playground is exposed to the snipers. We spend all the breaks inside.”
UNICEF responded quickly, working with the school to build a protective steel wall to block the view from nearby buildings.
“I listened in disbelief as the girls informed me about the sniper nearby,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Syria. “Yet I was so inspired by these girls and their passion for education. Despite this looming daily danger, despite all the hardships they have been through with their families being displaced by the fighting, this did not stop them from seeking their dreams of an education. I was once again humbled by the resilience of Syrian children.”
Within days the wall was completed, allowing students to move freely around the school grounds.
Another idea came to Ahlam as she saw the brownish colour of the steel wall, “Why don’t we paint it! It looks very dull this way?” Ahlam said. With her friends, she designed the paintings and started the work themselves.
“I spent the whole day painting but I didn’t feel tired at all. I made a difference for my school,” she said giggling.
UNICEF supports #ChildrenofSyria to get an education in different ways. In 2015, UNICEF helped rehabilitate 327 schools, and provided prefabricated classrooms for 20,000 children, especially to integrate displaced children into schools in host communities. UNICEF’s “Curriculum B” helps students catch up with broken education, often caused as they flee the violence or as schools are forced to close. And UNICEF’s Self Learning programmes aims to help Syria’s two million children who are out of school to keep learning and prepare for exams at home or in their community when they are not able to attend school due to the conflict.
“Attacks against students and schools must stop. For now, this wall is a small step to making this school safer for 670 schoolgirls. Schools must be a safe place for children, a safe place for learning,” said Ms Singer.
“My friends and I know that without coming to school we won’t have a future,” 16-year-old Ahlam told Ms. Singer.