As the school year kicks off in Syria, children are returning to school in eastern Aleppo with support from UNICEF.
To help children continue their learning and ease the financial burden of sending children to school, UNICEF aims to reach 800,000 children across the country with school bags, stationery and textbooks.
In Aleppo, 1 in 4 schools was destroyed or damaged in the conflict. 1.75 million children continue to be out of school across Syria and another 1.35 million are at risk of dropping out.
UNICEF works to deliver uninterrupted learning for every girl and boy affected by the current crisis in Syria, by helping to provide remedial classes for children who are behind in their studies. Curriculum b, is an innovative programme designed for children who have missed out on years of education to catch up with their peers in half the required time. UNICEF also backs a self-learning programme, for children who are unable to attend school because of violence, displacement and the risk of attacks. The self-learning programme can be used to study at home or in community learning centres with the help of an adult.
First graders attend their first class at Ghazza school in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo.
“I’m very happy to see all these children back in school, it gives me hope,” says Yasser, the class teacher who was displaced, before returning to east Aleppo 3 months ago.
Throughout the conflict, schools across Syria have lost more than 150,000 education personnel, including teachers.
“I’m not sure if I’m 5 or 6 now,” says Khawla, who turned out to be 6, with a bright smile. Khawla is attending her first day of Grade 1 in Ghazza school in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo.
Khawla and her family spent last year in a secluded village with no functioning schools in rural Aleppo, fleeing fighting in the city.
“None of my siblings went to school last year, but now we all go together!” she adds.
1.75 million children continue to be out of school across Syria and another 1.35 million are at risk of dropping out.
For Mohammad, 8, and his sister Ilaf, 7, returning to school is a dream come true.
“Last year, we only went to school for 3 days,” he says. “Whenever the sound of fighting and attacks started, my parents would run to school to rush us home,” jumps in Ilaf, remembering the horrific experiences they have been through.
Joudi, 7, excitedly checks the contents of her new pencil case distributed by UNICEF. This is Joudi’s first time inside a classroom. Together with her family, she sought shelter in the coastal governorate of Lattakia five years ago and never went to school because the nearest one was too far from her home.
Joudi and her family returned to their house in Sakhour neighbourhood of eastern Aleppo only 3 months ago.
“I am happy to come back home and go to school,” says Joudi. “Our house was not destroyed but all of my toys and my parents’ belongings are gone,” she adds.
Amira, 10, attends a math session as part of the first educational level of Curriculum b. the accelerated learning programme allows children who have missed out on years of education to catch up with their peers in half the required time.
Fatimah, 12, is back in school for the first time in six years, after living in a secluded village with no functioning schools.
“School was a dream for me,” she says, remembering the long days she spent at home.
“This dream finally came true!” she adds with a wide smile.
Sundus, 7, cautiously takes notes on her first day of Grade 2 at Ghazza school in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo. Sundus loves to colour, but she only just received her first box of crayons when UNICEF distributed school bags and stationery.
“I woke up very early in the morning, put on my favorite T-shirt and black necklace,” says Asmaa, 10. “I wanted to look pretty coming back to school after 3 years!” she adds with a grin.
Qutaiba, 7, carries his new school bag distributed by UNICEF in Ghazza school in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo.
“I don’t want to leave it in class and risk it being lost,” says Qutaiba. “It’s my first ever school bag!” he adds.
Mousa attends his first class of Grade 2 at Mohammad Seif Mahmoud School in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo. His hearing difficulties do not keep Mousa from doing well in school.
UNICEF supported the school, which was destroyed in the fighting, with 10 pre-fabricated classrooms, allowing more than 750 children to continue their learning.
Children get ready to enter class on the first day of school, in Mohammad Seif Mahmoud School in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo. UNICEF supported the school, which was destroyed in the fighting, with 10 pre-fabricated classrooms, allowing more than 750 children to continue their learning.
Nada (left) and Esraa walk down their daily path to school, chatting about their homework and friends.
“I am so happy that I was reunited with Esraa,” says Nada. Esraa’s family left Sakhour neighbourhood in east Aleppo three years ago, fleeing the escalating violence.
“I thought I would never see her again,” Nada adds, shying away.
The two friends were only reunited last week, as the school year kicked off, as Esraa’s family returned to their home.
“I am so happy that the new school year started! I don’t care how hot the weather is,” says Iman, 7. Iman has to walk a long distance to school every day, passing through narrow alleys amidst the rubble in Sakhour neighbourhood of east Aleppo.