Even in Syria, it’s back-to-school time
Amid ruins of one rebelheld suburb, kids still show up for first day of class
Young boys wearing backpacks gathered in a Syrian elementary school Saturday, smiling as they walked between desks covered in dust.
In the classroom, light filtered in through a gaping hole in the ceiling, with crumbling concrete and exposed steel bars suspended overhead. The building was damaged at some point during Syria’s brutal six-year conflict, which has turned this residential area outside Damascus, the capital, into a battleground.
In another classroom Saturday, the metal grate covering a window was bent inward, the result of a forceful blast. The walls of the school building were pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel.
Amid such destruction, Syrian children returned to classes — despite the war still going on around them — in the rebelheld suburb of Douma on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus.
Government airstrikes are still a regular occurrence in Douma, as President Bashar Assad’s forces fight to wrest control of the area from opposition groups.
International monitoring groups say the government has deliberately targeted schools and hospitals in rebel-held areas in the past.
In Douma, the battles have been underway since 2013. Airstrikes and ground battles have left much of the city in ruins. The same day that school started, a Douma-based medical group reported that a strike on the area had wounded several people.
But at the local school, students grasped on to some sense of normalcy despite the conflict around them.
The war has truncated children’s education. The protracted conflict has resulted in the partial or complete destruction of more than 5,000 schools, according to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
And with nearly 6 million Syrians displaced internally and 5 million more who have fled the country as refugees, lack of access to education has become a major issue.