The ongoing fierce assault on Aleppo by Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air cover and Iranian as well as Hezbollah militias, has forced most schools in the city to close. Dozens of schoolboys and teaching staff have been killed or injured in the Russian airstrikes which began on late September.
At the unofficial schools run by a Syrian activist group Kesh Malek in opposition-held districts of Aleppo, the children do not go outside to play during breaks in fear of a barrel bomb hitting the playground.
With over 110 teachers, most of them are first time teachers, the organization runs seven schools providing education to around 3,000 children in the divided war-ravaged city of Aleppo.
Syria’s largest city before the civil war, Aleppo is the scene of heavy bombardment as regime forces, backed by Russian air strikes, try to encircle the city and seize control of rebel-held areas that are home to around 350,000 people.
Marcell Shehwaro, executive director of Kesh Malek, said the schools run by the group had to close and will not re-open any time soon due to the intensified bombardment in recent days. Shehwaro said despite the disastrous situation, the staff at the group had not lost hope.
“When working on education you feel how important it is that a new generation gets to have a chance to have proper education,” Shehwaro told Reuters in an interview in London.
“We are thinking short-term. Let us deal with the situation as it is now. If Aleppo is besieged tomorrow, we are going to find a creative way to face that. It’s all about resistance,” she added.
Kesh Malek has tried to locate its schools in basements away from high buildings – that present clear targets – to provide some protection against aerial bombardments.
The name “Kesh Malek” means checkmate in Arabic, and refers to the defeat of the dictator in Syria and the creation of a democratic republic, the group says.
The group started setting up schools in Aleppo in 2011, at first using previous school premises, but that changed after a regime bombardment in April 2014 on the Ein Jalout school in the city. Shehwaro said 23 children had died in that attack.
“The worst case scenario is he (Assad) is going to target schools. Right now none of our schools have a yard. We don’t have sports or this kind of activity,” she said. “We replace that with drawing and puppet shows and indoor activities.”
“One of the teachers said to me, ‘why are we teaching children who are going to die next week?’ To me it’s harsh, but it has its own logic. They look at the children and imagine that they are going to be the next victims,” Shehwaro said.
The Syrian interim government earlier said that the Russian air force has bombed a total of 25 schools across Syria since the start of the Russian aggression against Syria on September 30, 2015.
The schools bombed included 14 in Aleppo, 6 in Idlib, 3 in Damascus and one in each of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa.
The Syrian interim government called upon the international community and international bodies concerned with education and children, particularly the United Nations, the UNICEF, and the UNESCO, to act in order to save Syria’s children and schools from the Russian barbaric aggression. It also called for adopting a clear and firm position on Russia’s barbaric attacks on schools in Syria.
The Syrian interim government reiterated calls on the UN Security Council to seriously work on putting an immediate end to the suffering of the Syrian people who have been subjected to a systematic genocide by the Assad regime and its allied sectarian militias as well as the Russian and the Iranian aggressors. (Source: Syrian Coalition)