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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Pursuing education in the face of the Syrian conflict: Manar’s story

UNICEF Image: Syrian students in class
© UNICEF/Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Al Kasem
Manar is happy to be back in school after a four-year absence.

The nearly six-year-long Syrian conflict has forced 1.75 million children and youth out of school, and uprooted even more from their homes. Manar and her family left their home in Homs in 2011. Since then she has been trying to get back to school.

By Leen Tarabichi

HOMS, Syrian Arab Republic, 20 January, 2017 – When Manar and her family left their house in the old city of Homs back in 2011, she left behind much more than her belongings. As violence escalated in her neighbourhood, Manar, 12 years old at the time, had to leave her friends, her school and her sense of security.

For many Syrian parents, the choice of sending your children to school is one of life or death. For Manar’s father, keeping his children at home was the only way to protect them after years of conflict and multiple displacement.

“We moved so many times that I no longer had any friends,” said Manar. “I used to stay home all day,” she adds, recalling the struggle she faced trying to convince her father to let her re-enrol in school, with no success.

>> Support children affected by the Syrian crisis

UNICEF Image: Syrian student in class
© UNICEF/Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Al Kasem
Manar taking part in an English class. She had to leave her home and school in Homs behind in 2011 due to escalating violence.

Returning home

Manar’s hope in continuing her education was revived after her family returned back to their partially-damaged home in Homs in 2015, despite the lack of basic services such as water and electricity due to the two-year siege that ended in May 2014.

It was then that UNICEF-supported teams met Manar for the first time. Volunteers were going door-to-door to speak with young people about different projects and opportunities available for them and Manar was eager to sign up for an English course. The two UNICEF-supported centres in Homs offer more than 1,000 young people the chance to participate in vocational training; life, communication and social skills sessions; language courses; community work and volunteering.

“Manar was one of the outstanding students in the English course,” said Majida, a volunteer with the team who visited Manar’s home. “She told me about her struggle trying to return to school. I wanted to help her. So I encouraged her to participate in our life skills sessions, hoping that she would gain the confidence to explain her father why education is so important for her future so that he can let her go back to learning.”

UNICEF Image: Syrian student participates in a group activity
© UNICEF/Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Al Kasem
Manar participates in a group activity during one of her classes.

Lessons for life

Through the life skills course, Manar improved her communication and negotiation skills, and gained self-confidence.

“Life skills training had a positive impact on my life,” said Manar reflecting on her past. “It shaped my personality and taught me how to communicate my ideas well and form convincing arguments. I think my greatest achievement after the course was convincing my father to let me continue my education.”

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, Manar was able to re-enroll in grade 10 – a glimpse of hope amid the horrors of the nearly six-year-long conflict that has forced 1.75 million children and youth out of school, and uprooted even more from their homes.

>>  Learn more about the humanitarian needs of Syrian children



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