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Syrian Children Return to School Amid the Ruins in a Rebel-Held Area


- 17syriaschools1 facebookJumbo 768x402 - Syrian Children Return to School Amid the Ruins in a Rebel-Held Area


Small boys wearing backpacks gathered in a Syrian elementary school on Saturday, smiling as they walked between desks covered in dust.

In the classroom, light filtered in through a gaping hole in the ceiling, with crumbling concrete and exposed steel bars suspended overhead. The building was damaged at some point during Syria’s brutal six-year conflict that has turned this residential area outside Damascus, the capital, into a battleground.

In another classroom on Saturday, the metal grate covering a window was bent inward, the result of a forceful blast. The walls of the school building were pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel.

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Amid such destruction, Syrian children returned to classes — despite the war still going on around them — in the rebel-held suburb of Douma on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus.

Continue reading the main story

Small boys wearing backpacks gathered in a Syrian elementary school on Saturday, smiling as they walked between desks covered in dust.

In the classroom, light filtered in through a gaping hole in the ceiling, with crumbling concrete and exposed steel bars suspended overhead. The building was damaged at some point during Syria’s brutal six-year conflict that has turned this residential area outside Damascus, the capital, into a battleground.

In another classroom on Saturday, the metal grate covering a window was bent inward, the result of a forceful blast. The walls of the school building were pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel.

Amid such destruction, Syrian children returned to classes — despite the war still going on around them — in the rebel-held suburb of Douma on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus.

Government airstrikes are a still a regular occurrence in Douma, as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fight to wrest control of the area from opposition groups.

International monitoring groups say that the government has deliberately targeted schools and hospitals in rebel-held areas in the past.

In Douma, the battles have been underway since 2013. Airstrikes and ground battles have left much of the city in ruins. The same day that school started, a Douma-based medical group reported that a strike on the area had wounded several people.

But at the local school, students grasped on to some sense of normalcy despite the conflict around them.

In the building, children’s artwork and paper cutouts of Arabic lettering hung on the wall, a reminder that school was back in session.

In Douma, just six miles from Syria’s capital city, signs of war are everywhere.

It is one of the last remaining areas of significant size near Damascus that is still under opposition control. Residents have spent much time cut off from the outside world, relying on aid from humanitarian organizations to provide for their most basic needs.

Last month, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered food, medical supplies and vaccines as part of an aid convoy.

The war has truncated children’s education. The protracted conflict has resulted in the partial or complete destruction of more than 5,000 schools, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

With nearly six million Syrians displaced internally and five million more who have fled the country as refugees, lack of access to education has become a major issue. In the neighboring countries that host a majority of the Syrian refugees, at least 536,000 school-age children are not receiving an education, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.

A week before the Douma schools reopened, Asma al-Assad, the wife of President Assad, visited a newly opened school in the government-held area of Tartus, according to reports from Syrian state-run news outlet SANA.

Mrs. Assad is seen in the photos hugging children in brightly painted, pristine classrooms, a stark departure from the scenes in Douma.

Nytimes

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