Lattakia Education Director to ST: Terrorist War on Syria Blocked Quality Education in the Country

LATTAKIA- The big challenges and difficulties produced by the seven-year terrorist war on Syria, particularly in the education domain, necessitated an urgent response by the Syrian government to make major infrastructure adjustment to absorb the growing number of students who left schools because of terrorism in several provinces.

Shedding light on the education situation in Lattakia province under the ongoing crisis, the Syriatimes e-newspaper interviewed Mr. Omran Abo Khalil, Director of Education there.

"Education is the key to Syria's future. The ongoing crisis in Syria has affected all walks of life in the country and caused damage to all sectors, particularly education," Mr. Abo Khalil said, asserting that the terrorist war waged on Syria has been a major barrier to quality education for all in the country.

 He clarified that due to the savage and criminal acts perpetrated by the terrorist groups in several Syrian provinces, a large number of families were forced to leave their homes and come to Lattakia.

Abo Khalil made it clear that because many schools have been completely burnt, damaged, destroyed or used as shelters, children remained out of schools and a dire need for teaching staff grew, the matter that has drastically affected the quality of the education process in the province.

He highly appreciated the great efforts exerted by the ministry of education in cooperation with Lattakia's governorate and the Lattakia Ba'ath Party branch leadership to alleviate the negative impacts of the terrorist war on the education sector.

 Abo Khalil pointed out that the ministry of education has been keen on drawing up urgent plans and implementing programs and measures aiming at offering facilities, ensuring all needs of the students and providing as much services and support as possible to the affected schools and students.

Fruitful Cooperation with UNICEF

The Lattakia education director hailed cooperation between the ministry of education and UNICEF in providing access to basic education, in rehabilitating schools infrastructure to allow students to learn again and in fixing the damage caused to schools and classrooms to help as many children get into schools as possible.

Shedding light on the key role of UNICEF in the field of education under the crisis in Syria, Abo Khalil said "UNICEF is Syria's main education partner. Its main focus has been to achieve three aims: scaling up equitable access to education, enhancing the quality of education and strengthening the education system".

He pointed out that the ministry of education in cooperation with UNICEF constantly offer free services to students including school bags, school stationery, clothes, food baskets, school uniform as well as other relevant requirements.

Abo Khalil asserted that special attention has been paid by UNICEF to expanding education response to cover children in besieged and hard-to-reach areas as well as children who left the school.

Abo Khalil affirmed that the education directorate in Lattakia province has spared no effort as to absorb a large number of students mainly children of martyrs, of the kidnapped and of displaced families including those staying in make-shift housing centers.

The education directorate in the province adopted a two-shift system and cooperated with UNICEF on providing ready-made classrooms in order to solve the problem of overcrowded schools and of turning schools into make-shift housing centers, according to Abo Khalil.

"An [education B] policy was also adopted by the directorate and the UNICEF in order to provide a range of learning opportunities for students who missed  the chance to join the schools,"  he added, pointing out that this policy is an essential part of the education ministry's response to the crisis with the aim of restoring education across the country and accelerating the curriculum to help students compensate years of lack of education through remedial classes and self learning.

He highly appreciated cooperation between the education sector and  the local communities as well as international organizations including UNICEF,UNESCO, the world food organization, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and charity associations.

Giving figures about the number of students enrolled in Lattakia's schools, Abo Khalil made it clear that "according to recent statistics carried out by the Statistics and Planning Department at Lattakia's Education Directorate, 214152 students aged 5-15 years were enrolled in Latakkia's schools in 2016 including displaced children, whereas the number of students enrolled in secondary schools reached 270930.

Psychological support team

Moreover, Abo Khalil said, through its psychological support team, Lattakia's education directorate has been keen on bringing the smile to the faces of the Syrian children, who are the major victim of the crisis, pointing out that this team is an example of the Syrian government's support initiatives that seek alleviating the children's suffering.

The team aims at ensuring both benefit and entertainment to children, reducing the negative impacts of the ongoing crisis on the children's feelings and thoughts, motivating the children to use their skills fully and effectively and promoting their responsibility towards themselves, their families and their homeland, added Abo Khalil.

He went on to say that the psychological support team holds constant workshops, competitions and exhibitions as well as intellectual and sport activities with the purpose of alleviating the suffering of the displaced students who fled the atrocities of terrorist groups in several Syrian provinces.

It took part in the school theater competition recently held in Damascus at the country's provinces level  and in which Lattakia's education directorate won the first position" he clarified, noting that the team also took part in blood donation campaigns in support for the Syrian Arab Army.

Interviewed by Rawaa-Ghanam