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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Supporting better education for Syrian and Iraqi children

© UNICEF video/2009
Students at the Jerji Toma School in Damascus. The school is one of 140 to be refurbished and it was chosen because of the large number of children of Iraqi refugees who are enrolled there.

By Bianca Baumler

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 16 June 2009 – Miriam, 11, is from Baghdad. She has been attending Jerji Toma School since 2008. This year she witnessed a transformation. When she first arrived, she remembers paint cracking off the walls and old school books.

"Teachers were doing their best, but were missing the tools," she said.

Thanks to the European Commission (EC), UNICEF and the Syrian Ministry of Education, her school has changed. She can play in the shade created by the massive roof covering the courtyard, drink clean water from fresh water coolers and learn from new science books.

"Everything has changed and is beautiful," said nine-year-old Lana, who also attends the school. 

Learning good hygiene

The impact of the programme is greater than simply making the school a nicer place for children. By improving the restrooms and at the same time explaining the benefits of staying clean, the children learn good hygiene. They bring what they learn home and help prevent unnecessary illnesses.

"This is the essence of education – to change practices in a good way," said UNICEF Education Specialist John Dabi.
Jerji Toma is one of 140 schools that have been rehabilitated since October 2007, with support from the European Union. It was selected because of the large number of children from Iraq.

In addition to providing education supplies, furniture and equipment, the project helped train school and Ministry of Education staff in promoting active learning and child participation as part of the Child-Friendly School Itiative.

More rehabilitation to come

In the coming three years, 76 more schools will be rehabilitated thanks to additional support from the EU.

“We hope to give young Syrians and Iraqis opportunities to actively develop their society and transform their personal commitment into tangible results," said Head of the European Commission Cooperation Angel Gutierrez.

On 10 May 2009, the Jerji School celebrated the completion of the programme with a colourful, sical school event.

"Caring for childhood is caring for our future," said the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Suleiman al-Khatib.




UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on how the European Commission and UNICEF are updating schools in Syria.
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