Safa’s renewed ambition for a better future

The UNICEF-supported self-learning programme gives out-of-school children and youth another chance at education

Sandra Awad and Lina Alqassab
21-years-old Safa
UNICEF/ Syria 2020/Hasan Belal
14 August 2020

Rural Damascus, Syria, 12 August 2020 - “They picked up my spirits again!” says Safa, 21, referring to the UNICEF-supported self-learning classes she signed-up for in Al-Bahariya village in rural Damascus, where she recently returned after six years spent on the move.

“I was displaced so many times that I can’t even remember how many,” she says with bitterness recalling years of violent conflict.

“It was difficult to start over with every move to a new place, but the biggest challenge for me was being deprived from education,” continues Safa who was forced to drop out-of-school when she was in Grade 6 due to displacement.  She then worked in sewing to help keep her family afloat.

“I was embarrassed whenever I heard children my age talk about school,” she recalls.

As years went by, Safa forgot almost everything she had learned in the few years she attended school.

Last year, following respite in violence, Safa’s family returned to their hometown in rural Damascus and heard about the UNICEF-supported self-learning programme. Specifically designed for out-of-school children, the programme allows them to study at home or in community centres with the help of caregivers or volunteers.

Safa eagerly signed up for Grade 6 to pick up right where she left off almost 7 years ago.

“Life had a meaning again and I started to recall everything I had studied before,” says Safa with sparkling eyes.  

“Day after day, I regained my confidence,” she added.

Unfortunately, Safa’s joy was short-lived due to the recent spread of COVID-19 and resulting restrictions forcing the self-learning centre to close its doors.

“I panicked because I thought I had to give up on my education once again,” recalls Safa. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe,”.

But a few weeks later, to carry on supporting over 2,900 out-of-school children and young people continue their learning in Damascus and its suburbs, UNICEF and partners introduced an innovative teaching method using the most used web chat application in Syria, WhatsApp, to conduct online classes that students can attend from home.

Every day, Safa uses her cellphone to listen to and interact with her lessons. She is working hard to complete her education, study Fine Arts, and pursue a career as a professional fashion designer.


Every day, Safa uses her cellphone to listen to and interact with her lessons.
UNICEF/Syria 2020/Hasan Belal
Every day, Safa uses her cellphone to listen to and interact with her lessons.
UNICEF/Syria 2020/Hasan Belal

“I dream of setting up my own fashion line one day,” she adds with a broad smile before adding,  “I’m now full of ambitions as I have retrieved my hope for better life.”

The UNICEF-supported self-learning programme in rural Damascus is generously supported by Educate A Child (EAC) for Grades 1-6 and Finland for Grade 7-9.