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How UNICEF Helps Out-of-School Kids in Syria Get Back on Track

February 18, 2021

Education programs implemented by UNICEF with support from partners like Educate A Child are reaching tens of thousands more students in need every year. A look at the impact of these efforts in a country racked by a decade of violence, displacement and socio-economic collapse.

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Abdulkader was 9 when he enrolled in the level 1 'Curriculum B' class at Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria, in 2019. Displaced by violence from his hometown in rural Aleppo years before, he had never set foot inside a classroom. Instead of going to school, he had been working as a construction laborer to support his mother and younger sister, his father's whereabouts unknown.

COVID-19 forced the school to close in March 2020, but doors reopened in August with UNICEF's support and precautions in place. "Arabic is my favorite subject," Abdulkader says, adding that after graduating, he wants to become a civil engineer or an architect. "I never want to be out of school again.”

Above, Najwa Almasri, principal of Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria, helps Abdulkader, 9, during a UNICEF-supported ‘Curriculum B’ class. “I’m amazed by the determination of these children to continue their education, overcoming the many barriers standing in their way,” she says, noting the difficulties parents and caregivers in Syria face in supporting children's education after years of violence, displacement and economic hardship — and now COVID-19. © UNICEF/UN0399001/Aldroubi

Abdulkader is one of millions of kids in Syria who have seen their educations disrupted since civil war broke out a decade ago, crippling the country's economy and health system and basic social services. UNICEF and partners have responded since the beginning with an array of education-related interventions, each designed to get kids back to learning one way or another. In 2020, UNICEF reached more than 2.1 million children across Syria with various education services and supplies in both formal and informal settings.

Curriculum B, an accelerated learning program, is specially designed for children who have been out of school for an extended period of time, allowing students to combine two academic years into one — three levels cover Grades 1 to 6 — and catch up with their peers. It is implemented in public school settings through Syria's Ministry of Education.

When education is derailed by conflict and displacement, UNICEF and partners help kids catch up

Other kids who are working or otherwise lack access to a formal classroom can get help through UNICEF's Self-Learning Program, which provides students with a set of workbooks covering core subjects (Arabic, English, mathematics and science) from which to study, with help from a parent or caregiver, at home or at a community center.

Educate A Child (EAC), a global program of the Education Above All Foundation, has been supporting UNICEF's programs for out-of-school children since 2012. The current partnership with UNICEF USA has reached 356,619 kids in its first three years. 

“I had missed being in school so much,” says Zein, 11, who attends Grade 6 at Hasan Muhammad Ibrahim school in Alsabil neighborhood, Homs, Syria. The school is currently undergoing a rehabilitation with support from UNICEF, made possible through a partnership with Educate A Child and UNICEF USA. © UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi 

UNICEF is also helping older kids in Syria whose education had been derailed return to learning and complete secondary school coursework with funding from other sources. Ra'ed, now 17, from Homs, had just started Grade 8 when he dropped out to work double shifts at a dairy factory to support his mother, who is unable to walk, and three younger siblings. A neighbor told him about a UNICEF-supported center in his village offering education and protection services, and he signed up.

“At first, it was overwhelming trying to juggle both work and learning,” Ra'ed recalls, “but with the help of the counselor at the center and with the psychosocial support sessions, I learned to manage my stress and my time better.” UNICEF has implemented the program at five centers in Homs and Hama governorates, reaching thousands of kids like Ra’ed.

Safa, who studies Fine Arts and dreams of a career as a fashion designer, enrolled in self-learning classes in Al-Bahariya village in rural Damascus at age 21, having recently returned there after six years on the move. “I was displaced so many times that I can’t even remember how many,” she says. The UNICEF program allowed her to pick up where she left off in Grade 6. “Life had a meaning again,” she says. When COVID-19 restrictions forced the self-learning center to temporarily close its doors in 2020, Safa used WhatsApp on her cell phone to complete her lessons online. © UNICEF/Syria/2020/Hasan Belal

With funding from Educate A Child, UNICEF has also been able to rehabilitate and reopen schools damaged by fighting; incentivize teachers who provide catch-up classes; train educators in COVID-19 prevention measures; and ensure that schools are sanitized daily. 

In addition:

  • over 750,000 self-learning textbooks and over 330,000 Curriculum B textbooks have been procured for distribution
  • 800 new learning spaces have been created in public schools, homes, community centers and tents in camps
  • over 500 school-in-a-box kits have been delivered to areas not served by government-supported schools
  • nearly 1,800 recreation kits have been distributed to enable free play and other healing activities for over 101,000 children
  • psychosocial support services have been provided to nearly 175,000 children
  • over 12,000 teachers have been recruited to be facilitators for the Self-Learning and Curriculum B programs

UNICEF won't stop until all children receive the support and education they need to grow up strong and healthy. Help UNICEF and Educate A Child continue meeting the needs of out-of-school children across Syria. Your contribution can make a difference.
 

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Top photo: Abdulkader, 9, attends a UNICEF-supported level 1 ‘Curriculum B’ class at Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria. It is his first ever experience attending school, as he has been working as a construction laborer to support his mother and sister since the family fled rural Aleppo due to the violence there. “Arabic is my favorite subject,” he says. “I never want to be out of school again.” © UNICEF/UN0399002/Aldroubi