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Syria: creating normality for children through schools

Syria: creating normality for children through schools

Getting away from civil war for a few hours

Armed conflict dominates life in Aleppo. Especially children are suffering from these events. The loss of family members and friends has traumatised entire families.    

The supply of electricity has now collapsed entirely, work in the factories has been suspended and families no longer have an income. Trading routes are often cut off as the country has been divided into government and opposition areas. Prices, on the other hand, have risen enormously. The inhabitants of Aleppo are lacking almost everything that is required for survival: food, clothing, diapers, baby food and medication.

Not enough room for everybody: classrooms are full every day.
Not enough room for everybody: classrooms are full every day.
Hot milk, cookies and fruits are distributed in the classrooms
Hot milk, cookies and fruits are distributed in the classrooms
Three on a bench. As many children as possible should be able to attend the schools.
Three on a bench. As many children as possible should be able to attend the schools.
The sun is crying: painting helps the children to process their experiences.
The sun is crying: painting helps the children to process their experiences.

Shots, air noise and bombings have become daily and life-threatening companions of the inhabitants of this North Syrian city. It is not only residential buildings but also many schools that have been heavily damaged as a result of the fighting, and are barely usable. Official school instruction has been suspended. It means that children in Aleppo have not only lost an opportunity for "learning" but also an important component of normal life. There is no such thing as normal in Aleppo anymore, and it has been like this for some time. 

School brings back a piece of normalcy

During the last three month, 16 temporary schools were established in Aleppo in cooperation with the Alliance2015 partner organisation People in Need (PIN). The objective of this Welthungerhilfe project is to return a sense of normalcy and safety to the children. They should be able to go to school and escape the civil war for at least a few hours. In addition to instruction, they are also given an opportunity to play in a relatively safe environment - to be normal children. Role plays, drawing and music also help them to express the traumatic events which are so difficult to process. Two times a week, the schools distribute restorative food to the children. Hot milk, fruit juice or cookies are not designed to replace meals, but are more of a gesture.

Going to school at the nearby mosque

Classes are held on the ground level or in the basement of destroyed schools, and also in mosques. The latter are usually well integrated into residential areas, hence are relatively secure and easy to reach by foot. These are important arguments for parents in Aleppo, as the shooting and fighting in the city would make long walks a very dangerous undertaking for their children.

At present, a total of 6,800 children are attending school again. However, demand is far greater. But there is simply not enough room, so that many children already had to be turned away. PIN started the school project at the beginning of 2013, but in March 2014 funds will be running out. It would mean that children would no longer have a "safe" place to go to, and would have to play on the street again, as before.

The aid measures in Syria are financially supported by the Federal Foreign Office, PIN and Welthungerhilfe.

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Strategic network of 8 European NGOs

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