The Assad regime's offensive in Idlib has disrupted education for tens of thousands of Syrian children, many of whom already faced obstacles trying to learn.

Teachers in Idlib say the bombing campaign in the rebel-held territory by Bashar al Assad’s regime has severely affected the education of tens of thousands of Syrian children.

The Assad regime and Russian warplanes have been targeting densely populated areas since late April, causing hundreds of civilian casualties, and forcing up to 250,000 people to flee.

The attacks are happening in de-escalation zones, which were agreed upon by Turkey and Russia in 2017.

Many of those at risk in Idlib had fled Assad fighters or regime persecution from other areas of Syria, meaning they are having to uproot for the second time in their own country.

For Idlib’s young that means more years lost to war.

“I was displaced from Ghouta last year and missed two years of school because of the bombing attacks,” Khalil Salem, a 17-year-old twelfth grade student told TRT World. “After we arrived in Idlib, I hoped to resume my studies here in peace.”

Salem said that his education had been disrupted “dozens” of times since the war started, most recently after the current Assad offensive began.

Conditions at school after arriving in Idlib were never ideal for the teenager, with mosques and other buildings taking the place of actual school buildings, but the flare-up in attacks has taken away even that option.

“We had to flee our home again last week and it looks like we’ll be displaced in the mountains. I don’t know anything about when I can go back home or when I can do my exams,” he said. “I want to learn, I want to build a future, and be able to help my family in the future.

“I’m desperate to go back to school, I love math and want to study civil engineering in the future. But when or how it will happen, God knows.”

Smoke billows above building during reported shelling by regime and allied forces, in the town of Hbeit in the southern countryside of the rebel-held Idlib province on May 3,2019.
Smoke billows above building during reported shelling by regime and allied forces, in the town of Hbeit in the southern countryside of the rebel-held Idlib province on May 3,2019. (AFP)

Forced to shut

Schools have not been spared from Assad regime bombardment, and in fact have regularly been targeted since the war began. Even in times of relative calm, teachers and students must live with the threat of attack.

Arabic teacher Baha Badawi, who is 29 and from Maraat al Nouman, said that his school was forced to shut after a regime bombing raid nearby.

“Last week when one of the lessons was taking place, an airstike hit the village and we had to close the school,” he told TRT World. “We were reviewing topics for the exams that take place after Ramadan, but we can’t do that anymore.

“We don’t know if we can run the school under these circumstances.”

Badawi said he blamed the Assad regime and its ally, Russia, for the situation. 

”They don’t have the dignity to keep their warplanes away from schools and hospitals,” he said.

Displaced Syrians gather in a field near a camp for displaced people in the village of Atme, in the rebel-held northern Idlib province on May 8, 2019.
Displaced Syrians gather in a field near a camp for displaced people in the village of Atme, in the rebel-held northern Idlib province on May 8, 2019. (AFP)

Houses and mosques

According to Alaa Zaza, chairman of the NGO Child Protection Syria, at least 187 schools in Idlib and nearby areas had closed in the last six weeks. For most, the closures occurred as exam season approached.

Teacher, Zaza said they were trying to compensate for the closures by gathering students in their own houses and in mosques to ensure that the process of education does not stop.

“Our teachers and emergency workers are trained on how to react if an attack occurs, which usually involves taking shelter in basements underground to lessen the risk to their safety,” he said.

Zaza said that volunteers had successfully managed to establish 19 emergency schools serving 1,100 students who had been displaced by the fighting, with plans for a summer school so that students who had missed lessons could catch up.

However, he cautioned that the effects of the Assad regime’s campaign may linger on for years to come, referring to the psychological impact of the fighting.

According to UNICEF, more than 2.5 million Syrian children have fled the country since fighting began. Some groups put the number of children killed at over 20,000.

Source: TRT World