Today was the first day of School in Syria, around 4 million students joined their classes in about 15,000 schools all over safe areas (government-controlled) for the school year 2016-2017.
Education in Syria is free, it is also compulsory until the 9th grade, and in secondary education students pay only for their books (SP 5000-7000 = $10-14) However, this year was even more challenging than the previous years due to the increasing difficulties on all levels- security, economy, social problems etc.
UNICEF did some help by providing school supplies and participating in maintenance work and repairing of a limited number of schools, but that help barely covers or solves the problem of some families and areas.
The difficulty in preparing for this school year lies in many factors. First, is the fall of the value Syrian Pound against US Dollar (more than 88% since the beginning of war) and prices are in constant increase every day. Second, is the manipulation of merchants and insufficient control on the side of government on the markets. Third and most importantly, pressure on schools in safe areas is now worse than ever due to the demographic changes in the country resulting from the displacement of over 12 million Syrians inside Syria; one class designed to hold 20 students, most of the time holds a minimum of 50 students.
Syrian government has provided selling points where products are offered with 40-50% sales, but this was not enough. Numbers of those points and their distribution over Syrian
cities is still nothing compared to the huge demand. Worse than that is that even with 40-50% sales, prices are still too high to handle for the averageSyrian family.
According to Firil studies center in Berlin, 86.7% of Syrians are now below poverty line (income below $60 a month = $2 a day) as the average income of the Syrian family is SP 24,000 ($45). To prepare three children for the new school year, a family needs to pay SP 40,000 ($80) in governmental selling points, while numbers in usual market range between SP 58,000-82,000 ($104-164).
Although education in Syria is compulsory until the 9th grade, but many children had to drop out school either because the family cannot cover the costs, or because the children need to work to help support their families, or because of the miserable situations in refugee camps, and sometimes for all reasons together. It is true that about 4 million children still could make it to their classes this year, but at the same time reports talk about huge figures of children who would not make it to school.
Back in 2010, 94% of Syrian children attended primary and lower secondary school. By June of this year, only 60% were in school, leaving 2.1 million children and teens without access to education, according to UN figures. The UN estimates nearly 900,000 Syrian refugee children are not in school. UN seems to appeal for more money and help all the time, to raise more funds, and to make more warnings about the risks of missing school, but children’s situation seems to be getting worse, EVERYWERE.
It is our responsibility as individuals and community to save those children, we cannot wait for NGOs or governments to save them, WE need to do something. There are many attempts in Syria and Lebanon to provide children with the education and support they need to survive the harsh circumstances they suffer from, those efforts are done by volunteers, people who are waiting for no reward of any kind, they only want to make a difference in the lives of those children.
Volunteering and individual initiatives seem to be an excellent starting point to do any kind of positive change in the life of a child who is a victim of the adults’ war.
Do not wait for others to solve the problem, start on your own.