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Source: Save The Children

Mamdouh*, 8, standing among the rubble of the neighbourhood where he used to live, and has been destroyed by the earthquake that hit Syria in February 2023. Khalil Ashawi/Save the Children.

A Blog written by Rafi, from our partner Shafak directed at those in attendance at the Brussels VII Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.

As a representative of the young souls who have witnessed the devastating effects of the recent earthquake in Northwest Syria, it is with a heavy heart and a sense of responsibility that I will try to shed a light on the profound impact the earthquake has had on the implementation of education programmes in the region.

Amid the chaos and destruction that surrounds us, education has emerged as a lifeline — a beacon of hope for thousands of school girls and boys who dream of a brighter future. However, the earthquake further compounded the challenges we already faced due to the past 12 years of war. It shook the very foundations of our fragile education system, leaving us in desperate need of support and solutions.

Imagine, if you will, the once bustling halls of our schools, now silenced, with the laughter of children echoing only in distant memories. The closure of our schools has been a heart-breaking blow to children’s dreams and aspirations. Children long for the day when they will return to the comfort and safety of a classroom.

But the challenges we face extend far beyond the closure of our beloved schools. The earthquake left a trail of destruction, gravely damaging the educational infrastructure of NW Syria. Schools, once safe havens of learning, now stand weakened and vulnerable. A staggering 54% of schools and 37% of teaching and learning spaces were affected by the earthquake – a total of 822 school buildings. It will take immense efforts and resources to repair and rebuild them, to ensure that children can, once again, find solace within their protective walls.

Moreover, the displacement caused by the earthquake has uprooted children’s lives in unimaginable ways. Families were torn apart, teachers separated from students, and communities scattered. The task of tracking and supporting the education of displaced students, especially those with disabilities, has become an uphill battle in overcrowded displacement camps. The lack of transportation services adds yet another layer of difficulty to their journey and ability to get to a school that remains safe enough to be used.

Children look up to their teachers as beacons of knowledge and guidance. But teachers are also grappling with the emotional aftermath of the earthquake, so they need additional support, training, and resources to be able to best support the needs of children, heal their wounded hearts, and empower them to rise above the challenges surrounding them.

Hatem*, 15, studying in the tent where he now lives after he lost his house to the earthquake. Hurras Network.

Children’s hearts long for your understanding and support, for it is through your empathy that their dreams may flourish once more. These are the main challenges they are facing and how world leaders, and donors can support the recovery of NW Syria:

1. Schools are in a detrimental state, with more than half of schools damaged/destroyed. The repair of these damaged schools is an urgent necessity and what will bring hope, amidst the chaos, to the children on north-west Syria.

2. Teachers tirelessly impart knowledge and wisdom without receiving proper compensation, training and the assurance of a safe workplace. Their dedication should be met with dignified incentives, and an urgent comprehensive inter-sectoral multi-year intervention is needed to provide them with a safe workplace, and access to vital services such as healthcare, electricity and water, together with providing them with the opportunity to get training in psychosocial support so that they can better support children and create an environment where they can heal, grow and thrive.  

3. Resources are lacking, with children not having the books, pens, and paper to thrive and learn in class. We long for more tools that will enable children’s educational journey to flourish. School bags with learning materials, recreational resources that bring joy seem small gestures but they hold immense power in re-igniting children’s passion for learning.

Thank you for taking the time to hear the plea of Syria’s children, for embracing their dreams, and for standing beside them on this journey toward an education that knows no boundaries.

Together we can pave the way for a brighter tomorrow—a tomorrow where every Syrian child, regardless of their circumstances, can dream, learn, and thrive.

Support our education programmes in Syria to help children keep on dreaming.