UNICEF helps children with disability continue their education

Aleppo, northwest Syria.

By: Antwan Chnkdji and Rasha Alsabbagh
A number of children with disabilities attend a self-learning class at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighborhood, Aleppo city, Syria.
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar
28 May 2021

“The same conflict that killed my father had caused my head injury and gave me this disability,”

Rasem, 15
A number of children with disabilities attend a self-learning class at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighborhood, Aleppo city, Syria.
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar
A number of children with disabilities attend a self-learning class at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighborhood, Aleppo city, Syria.
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar

A number of children with disabilities attend a self-learning class at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighborhood, Aleppo city, Syria.

The protracted conflict in Syria has severely impacted children’s education, leaving one third of school-aged children out of school and one in three schools either completely or partially not functional; thus, disrupting their learning and jeopardizing their hopes of a better future. For children with disabilities the challenges are doubled. Many of them lack access not only to properly functional schools, but also to inclusive ones that are equipped to cater to their learning needs.

In Aleppo, to support children with disabilities continue their education, UNICEF has been reaching them with its supportive learning programme, targeting 3,700 children with disabilities, including those out-of-school through self-learning classes, those at risk of dropping out between Grades 1 – 6 with remedial classes and those aged 3 – 5 years with early childhood education (ECD).

 A child in a classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar

 “The same conflict that killed my father had caused my head injury and gave me this disability,” said Rasem, 15, from Aleppo city, Syria.

Five years ago, Rasem and his family had to flee their home due to escalating violence. In the outskirts of Aleppo city, while heading to Latakia for shelter, they were caught in fighting that caused Rasem to lose his father and get injured. After the incident, despite months he spent in and out of hospitals under surgeries and getting treated, the injury gave him a physical disability in the right side of his body.

The injury not only affected Rasem physically, it also had a negative impact on his ability to write, read and learn. The life that he had known to be normal before the incident no longer existed. He moved from being a Grade 5 at-the-top of his class student to not being admitted by a regular school due to his disability as the school was not equipped to include children with physical disabilities.

But Rasem’s persistence and determination to continue his education were significant. In 2017, he joined a special learning class with a nearby local NGO that cares for children with disability. He had to relearn the alphabet and start from scratch. He also had to learn how to hold a pen with his left hand as his right hand could no longer serve him with that.

With the loss of his father and as the eldest, Rasem felt the need to find a job to support his family. “I have always wanted to become pediatrician, but it will not happen now,” he said with disappointment showing on his face. He searched with no luck for a job that he can do, so he decided to focus on his learning.  “I want to continue my education to be able to support my family,” he added.

Today, Rasem is among 3,700 children with disabilities benefitting from UNICEF’s supportive learning in Aleppo.

Child writing in his notebook
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar

“I like it here and I learn many new things,” said Omar, 15, while looking with his friend Hamoudeh, 14, at what they have learned at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighbourhood, Aleppo city, Syria.

Little girl writing on classroom board
UNICEF/Syria/2021/Ali Almatar

Muna, 12, who has a developmental delay, practices the alphabet at a UNICEF-supported center in Alkaterji neighborhood, Aleppo city, Syria.

In Aleppo, to support children with disabilities continue their education, UNICEF has been reaching them with its supportive learning programme, targeting 3,700 children with disabilities, including those out-of-school through self-learning classes, those at risk of dropping out between Grades 1 – 6 with remedial classes and those aged 3 – 5 years with early childhood education (ECD) thanks to the generous support from Germany and The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

UNICEF also intends to reach 4,700 children and caregivers with COVID-19 protection messaging and awareness raising on the importance of education for children with disabilities as well as 800 teachers to build their capacity about optimal ways of supporting children with disabilities, thanks to the generous support from Germany and The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).