Mohammed, Syria

18 Mar

I read the first line and freeze. The facts are stark.

“Mohammed now lives in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and has been there for 8 months. He has been teaching there for 4 months.”

No home. Food on charity. Nutritious biscuits for the children. The school attacked at night. Funds uncertain. And 25000 school age children in the camp. Of them 20,000 are registered in the school

“Our main problems are the shortage of text books, we need boards and markers. There’s a big deal of coordination with foreigners. There are problems as teachers are dealing with children who have become aggressive because of the situation and the parents are not following up with their children in the school.”

I hear the words. I try to take in the facts. But all I can hear is the staccato tone of Mohammed’s interview. As if that gunshot rhythm is the beat to their lives. I cannot hear anything but that beat. Think of the children. Growing up to that beat. Of snatching every piece of normal life – bread, vegetables, books, laughter. Every moment in peril.

This then is up to all of us. To give them their moments of childhood back. They deserve nothing less. And to give them a chance at a prosperous, dignified future. The pictures of the school hearten me. The face that bends over a child and his book, with care. It is moments, and resources like this that will rebuild the future. Sometimes, words can only do so much. I share some pictures – of hope.


But before I leave, let me share an anecdote… It was one of those airport lounges. In the middle of a desert. Educators from the world had gathered. And loads of flights were delayed. We gravitated towards each other, nodding hesitantly at first. Sharing stories of the fight for education for all. Sharon (name changed), who had run schools in three conflict zones over the past decade. Fatima (name changed) who spoke to schools in slum areas everyday. Sara (name changed) who brought learning materials to the deprived and the excluded – who would never have seen quality materials without her. All of us sat there telling our stories. We were bound – not by the moment, but by the love of learning, and knowing that everything we shared that day, we took back to the children. In that moment we grew again as teachers, learning from each other. And drawing strength. We need to keep these schools going – the small schools in slums. The conflict ridden schools in Kashmir, and in the insurgency areas in middle India. In Syria. And Crimea. In every place where there is a child. The tragedy of the present must not be allowed to become the future of our world.


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