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Students speak out on Syria’s over-stretched schools

Children are spearheading an overhaul of Syria’s over-stretched education system.

The fresh -thinking education assessment programme aims to improve the country’s schools by giving children a big say in what needs to be done.

Backed by the European Union and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the innovative shake-up hopes to tackle problems such as over crowding, a high number of refugees and high re-take rate by looking at the day-to-day needs of parents, teachers and students.

The programme is based around community meetings, which give pupils a platform to talk about their school environments, voice concerns and give suggestions.

“We are the children and the only ones who can speak for students,” said Nareen Al Qaaq, who goes to school in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The eighth grader told one of the schools assessment programme community meetings how equipment was going missing in her school.

“The desks are completely smashed and if we need to drink water we cannot, because there are no taps, she said. “In summer, it is even worse.”

“The best thing is that you asked the kids, because they have every right to give their voice in the school they study in,” said teacher Samira Abu Salmaan. “While they are sometimes shy,” she said. “Even students as young as six are more than willing to pitch in. And the merit of even the youngest students’ concerns is taking many by surprise.”

One of the problems the western Asian country hopes to ease is the major influx of Iraqi refugees in to the country, which means Syria’s schools struggle every day to make enough space, equipment and teachers to cater for the rising number of pupils.

Letting students, staff, teachers and parents take part in the process has helped make sure that schools receive well targeted help.

“This cooperation is really important as we now only equip schools with the most necessary things,” said head teacher Muhammad Naser Muhammad. “This serves the teaching process,” he told Unicef. “I didn’t think anyone would care,” admitted Mr. Muhammad. “But they do, they really do.”

In 1981, the government passed a law making education free and compulsory for all Syrian children from grades 1 to 6. Given the current growth rate in the number of school age children, it is estimated that by 2015, the education system in Syria will need to provide for an extra one million pupils in primary and secondary education.

Hayley attribution