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“Where is my copybook and where is my pen?”

Ciber, who is deaf and mute, wanted to become a teacher of children with special needs, but the Syrian conflict forced her to stop attending school.  Download this video


By Chris Niles

For a young Syrian girl living with disability in a refugee camp in Iraq, being out of school means missing out on a promising future.


© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles
Ciber with her mother, Wafa, and two siblings, in their tent home. “[Ciber] could study and have a future,” Wafa says of her family’s life in the Syrian Arab Republic. “We were so happy, me and her dad.”

ERBIL, Iraq, 14 November 2013 – Wafa has six children, and one of them, Ciber, is deaf and mute.

The family lives in Kawergosk refugee camp. In their old life in Damascus – before the Syrian conflict drove them from their home – Ciber was studying in school and planning to become a teacher of children with special needs.

“She could study and have a future,” Wafa says. “We were so happy, me and her dad.”

Ciber has been out of school for more than two years now, and it causes her parents great anguish. Coaxing her daughter to write the English alphabet, Ciber can only get as far as ‘C’.

“She’s so bright,” her mother says proudly. “But she forgot.”

“She sees copybooks and pens. She starts asking, ‘Where is my copybook, and where is my pen? Didn’t I used to go to school in Damascus?’”

Kawergosk camp opened in August, and already there are more than 12,000 refugees here. UNICEF has opened a tent school and has begun preparations with partner NGO Peace Winds Japan to build permanent prefabricated structures that will enable a better learning environment as winter approaches. There are more than 2,500 students enrolled in grades 1 through 9.

“I have a daughter in the 10th grade, and every day she is crying,” Wafa says. “She hates it here, because she wants her school back. She wants to go back to Syria, to the war, just to be able to go back to her school.”

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles



UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

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