In the midst of conflict, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is doing its best to support the continued education of students in Syria.
Students in the country have faced mounting obstacles in pursuing education, with thousands fleeing the violence and others unable to access their schools since the beginning of the three-year-old conflict.
As the end of the year approaches, many of them are worried about the upcoming exams, but are determined to take them and continue with their schooling.
“I feel very sad about the situation around me, which makes it very difficult for me to focus on my lessons, unlike when I lived in Yarmouk and felt safe. However, I am determined to take the exam and succeed,” said 15-year-old Leen Odeh, expressing feelings shared by many Palestine refugee students.
Fifteen-year-old Mahmoud Khalaf, like Leen, is also having difficulty focusing on his school work. Last year, Mahmoud was one of the top students at UNRWA’s al-Karmel school in Yarmouk, but now he feels extremely insecure. “I always feel anxious because of the situation around me, making it very difficult to sleep and study,” said Mahmoud.
Mahmoud and Leen are two of the more than 2,000 former students of UNRWA schools in Yarmouk who fled and will be taking their exams at UNRWA’s Damascus Training Centre (DTC). They are now preparing to take final exams that will determine whether they will pass to the secondary or vocational levels, which a significant point in their educational careers.
To assist students with studying, the DTC’s library now remains open in the evenings. “I usually study at the library every day from 5 to 10:30pm. I share a room with 40 people, which makes it nearly impossible to study. Having the library available has proved to be very helpful.”
Despite the work of UNRWA and other organizations, students continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, and are at constant threat of violence. “Schools have been heavily disrupted and the traumatic experiences the students went through affect the minds and behavior of young children,” said the Chief of Education in Syria Mohammad Ammouri.
The increasing security risks have meant a relatively low attendance rate at UNRWA schools in the country, with families fearing sending their children to school.
To help students like Leen and Mahmoud, UNRWA also arranged for evening classes to be held in schools put at the Agency’s disposal by the Syrian Ministry of Education. "I am confident that our resilient students will do very well despite the current situation,” said Ammouri.
Restoring education is a top priority for UNRWA, and this is the latest example of the Agency’s efforts to ensure continuity in learning and teaching for a new generation of Palestine refugee students.