A new desk makes a big difference
Community volunteers, supported by UNICEF and partners, repair school desks to help children continue their education in a comfortable environment
Deir-ez-Zor city, northeast Syria, December 2021 – More than a decade of crisis has partially or completely damaged one in three schools in Syria. Close to 2.5 million children are out of school. Children’s education in Deir-ez-Zor, and across the country, has borne the brunt of the devastating conflict.
With respite in violence since 2019, families in Deir-ez-Zor have started to return home to rebuild their lives. For children wishing to resume their education some hurdles persist. Attending class in an overcrowded room is one of them.
At a glance, this might look like a pile of junk with little use or value. This was not the case for staff at the Department of Education in Deir-ez-Zor. They wanted to ensure that the school desk frames would not go to waste and decided to repair the desks to accommodate more students in class and save costs. UNICEF and partners were there to help.
UNICEF procured the needed materials for the repairs. Young people and men, attending a training at a UNHCR and UNDP-rehabilitated and equipped vocational training centre in Al Baladia villat neighbourhood, Deir-ez-Zor city, volunteered to do the repair works in 2021.
Carpentry and blacksmithing trainers supervised the work of the volunteers. Most of them had lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the conflict. The volunteers had a chance to put what they had learned into practice while leaving a positive impact on children’s lives.
“In four months, I was able to learn carpentry. I wanted to do something to make a living and support my family,”
Making use of the metal frames of worn-out school desks, they cut, burnished, and assembled wooden boards. The finalized boards were then fixed onto the frames.
“During the training, I learned how to make different types of furniture in no time. So, I wanted to take part in this project,” added Yaser. He was able to get a paid job as a daily laborer after the vocational training and he dreams of having his own workshop soon.
“When my daughter came back home a little while ago, she was thrilled about having new desks in her classroom. I felt so proud! Our work has helped children feel more comfortable while at school,” explained Yaser, while cutting wooden boards at the Vocational Training Centre, to repair more school desks. The day after Yaser’s daughter found out about the project, she went back to school filled with pride, telling her friends about it.
Not only has the project helped many children to continue their education, but it has also provided opportunities for people who took part in the vocational training to put their new skills into practice.
Ahmad, 21, is another carpentry trainee who volunteered for the project.
“I learned about different types of wood and how to cut them. Excelling at the training, made my trainer hire me to work at his workshop,” said Ahmad. He is now able to support his family and cover for his education fees. He is a second-year mechanical engineering student at the university.
“I dream of opening my own workshop for carpentry, blacksmithing and aluminum carpentry,” he added.
“Every child has the right to learn. This project is the fruitful outcome of community members coming together to support the children so that they can continue learning in a more conducive space. UNICEF, and partners, provided the tools and opportunity to do so,”
Nine-year-old Ghada is one of the students. “The new desks are smooth!” said the third grader as she read an exercise during class at Adel Alhaj Hneidi school. “The previous desks we had were really old. Their surface was bumpy, and I often had sawdust on in my fingers. It hurt! Also, we couldn’t sit straight as the seats were shaky,” explained Ghada. She is happy about being able to sit in a comfortable position during a school day.
“Sometimes, three or four of us would have to sit at one desk. We did not have many desks in class. I remember having to wear my bag all day or not having enough space to move or write while being seated,” said Qaysar, 9. He attends Grade 3 at Adel Alhaj Hneidi school.
Nour, 9, another Grade 3 student in Ghada’s and Qaysar’s class at Adel Alhaj Hneidi school, also struggled with the lack of seating space. “These new ones are spacious and have enough room for our bags and stuff,” she said about the new desks. “Previously, we all had to fit into the same classroom with less desks. My desk had a rugged surface, it was dusty and hard to clean. Now, I feel more comfortable at school!” she added.
In Deir-ez-Zor, since last year, with thanks to a generous contribution from Germany, UNICEF with partners has helped reach 40 schools across the governorate with 1,000 repaired school desks to help children continue their education in a conducive classroom environment.