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Idlib: teacher set up own school under olive trees

Features | 2019-09-14 12:01:00
Idlib: teacher set up own school under olive trees
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Mohamed Sweidan, a displaced teacher, had no choice but to use the shade of the olive trees in the Idlib countryside to teach the children.

Sweidan, 34, fleeing the regime bombardment  moved with his wife to an olive grove in the town of Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border. Sweidan refused to leave approximately 150 displaced children in his camp without education. He set up age-based workshops and taught them basic literacy skills, mathematics, English and Islamic law using simple tools.

A UN inquiry into a series of regime and Russian attacks on UN-supported facilities in northwestern Idlib province will begin this month’s end, the international body announced Friday. 

Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian affairs coordinator, told the Security Council last month that the regime's more than three-month offensive in northwest Syria has left at least 17 villages in southern Idlib not only decimated but "emptied" as well.

Sweidan says his duty is to try to save a generation from loss and get them connected with school even if they are in a small class and under the olive tree. A large part of the children he teaches do not even have notebooks and pens and "No educational or humanitarian organization has taken the initiative to rectify the situation.”

Although he attempted to find a building for the school, he only found this place under the trees, stressing that as long as there are children in the camp he will continue teaching, whatever the circumstances.

"It is our right to live, and the children’s right to learn, play, live in peace," the teacher concluded.

Idlib and other adjacent territories of Syria held by jihadists have faced intensifying bombardment since late April that claimed lives of 1100 people.

Ali al-Ali, 12, one of dozens of children attending Sweidan classes, said that he was supposed to be in 6th grade, but frequent displacement hampered his studies as he just started learning to read and write. Ali wants to continue learning so that he can reach his dream and become a teacher.

The regime and its ally Moscow declared a ceasefire on Aug. 31 following five months of bombing which the United Nations says killed hundreds of people.

This was the second such truce announced there in a month. A ceasefire in early August collapsed within three days, after which the Russian-backed army of Bashar al-Assad pressed its offensive and gained ground.

The educational situation in northern Syria has become difficult due to shelling, targeting schools, and displacement, as well as poverty, which led many children to work and drop out of school. The recent military offensive on Idlib and the control of the regime forces and Russian militias over large areas of rural Hama led to the displacement of thousands of civilians and added to the tragedy of the situation.

Turkey, which supports some rebel factions, brokered a "de-escalation" deal with Russia in 2017 that sought to curb fighting in Idlib. It does not cover jihadist militants.

The eight-year-old war has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and forced 13 million people from their homes, half of whom have left their shattered homeland.

Zaman Al Wasl
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