Tasneem with her classmates at the Syrian Society for Social Development run classes. Credit: OCHA/Rania Aswad
Tasneem Khadra is a 17-year-old girl who used to live in the Katerji neighborhood of east Aleppo. Along with almost 6 million other children and youth, Tasneem was forced out of the education system following the besiege of East Aleppo and the subsequent evacuation of people in late 2016. Unable to attend formal schooling, she missed her secondary certificate exams.
With the Syria conflict entering its seventh year, an estimated 1.75 million children aged 5-17 years were out of school in the 2015/16 school-year, and 1.35 million are currently at risk of dropping out (data: Humanitarian Response Plan 2017).
In 2017, humanitarian actors were gradually able to access eastern Aleppo and restore of basic services for families who began to return. In February, Tasneem heard that the Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) was providing free classes for students living in newly-accessible areas of the city. Determined to resume her education, Tasneem immediately registered for remedial classes.
Walking an hour back and forth to reach the SSSD education center, Tasneem spent the next 3 months attending classes. In the process, she became a natural leader among her classmates as she encouraged them not to miss any lessons, checked on absent or sick kids and organized study groups.
Tasneem and her classmates studying English. Credit: OCHA/Rania Aswad
“I’m so happy I and most of my classmates eventually passed the exams,” Tasneem said. With no electricity in her damaged house, she studied in the basement using candlelight.
Supported by the Syria Humanitarian Fund, the SSSD programme offers a wide range of services for “at-risk” school-aged children, including remedial classes, tutoring, informal education, registration support and education supplies. The SSSD uses the ‘Participatory Learning Methodology’ which allows drop-outs to develop critical thinking skills needed to go back to learning, with an ultimate goal of reintegration into the schooling system.
Under the SSSD program, almost 40 percent of the 150 students from eastern Aleppo have registered in secondary level remedial classes and passed their exams. According the Directorate of Education, an estimated 390,000 students are currently enrolled in 1,300 functional schools across Aleppo governorate.
But many children remain out of school, at risk of early marriage and child labor. The humanitarian actors in the country prioritize the provision of relevant and quality education to children and youth affected by the crisis, including in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
The SSSD is reaching out to internally displaced people in collective shelters. SSSD staff and volunteers are gender-balanced, supporting both girls and boys in getting back to learning.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to rebuild my life and have a chance to reach my full potential,” Tasneem said. “Thanks to this center, I managed to achieve my dream.”