UNICEF supports Grade 9 students from hard-to- reach areas to sit for national exams in Aleppo

Despite challenges and an arduous journey, children are determined to pursue their dreams

UNICEF
04 October 2020

Aleppo, Syria, 15 September 2020- In late July, over 3,000 brave boys and girls set out on a long journey from hard-to-reach areas in rural Aleppo including Manbij, Albab, Azaz, Ain Alarab and Jarablus, to sit for their national Grade 9 exams in Aleppo city.

Working with partners and other UN agencies, and thanks to generous contributions from Japan, Canada, Norway and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF provided the students with support including remedial classes to prepare for the exams, bursaries to help cover transportation costs , the provision of stationery, learning materials and meals, as well as psychosocial support through group and one-on-one sessions.  Children and chaperoning teachers also received mine risk education to ensure their safety when returning to their war-ravaged areas where explosive hazards are prevalent.

To ensure a comfortable stay for students, UNICEF also prepared 6 accommodation centres in the city through rehabilitation of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, provision of safe drinking water, installation of windows and doors, and maintenance of electricity. To guarantee the safety of students amidst COVID-19 concerns, UNICEF undertook daily sanitation of the accommodation centres and over 60 exam centres.

girl reading book in classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
“It was a long and tiring journey, I was scared to travel without my family but the reward is that I get to continue my learning,” says Nuha, 16, who traveled all the way from Manbij in rural Aleppo to sit for her national Grade 9 exams in Aleppo city. Like most children in her hometown, Nuha had to drop-out-of school for over two years, when extremist groups took over her village and imposed restrictions on education, closing schools and burning schoolbooks. Following respite in violence and shifting control of her village, Nuha was excited to return to school only to find it destroyed in fighting. “I had to move to a new school farther away; the move was difficult, but I was excited to continue my learning,” says Nuha. Nuha prepared well for her Grade 9 exams and is looking forward to taking a step closer to her dream of becoming a teacher.
girl reading a book
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
“I had lost hope in ever returning to school and having my old life back,” says Amal, 16, who was also forced to give up on learning when extremist took over her hometown of Manbij, imposing restrictions on education. “Despite everything I had been through, and living in fear all the time, I managed to get a few books and study at home in secret,” recalls Amal who was excited to return to school following respite in violence, having lost over 3 years of learning. “It was very hard to catch-up on what I missed but I’m indebted to one teacher who took the time to help me prepare for Grade 9 exams and pushed me to reach my full potential,” says Amal who dreams of becoming a teacher to help students like herself.
girl carrying a book
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Due to violence and displacement Asmaa, 16, lost two years of learning during which she worked in farming to support her family. Following respite in violence, Asmaa and her family returned to their hometown of Manbij where she was able to return to education and get back on track. In Late July, Asmaa took a 9-hour journey from her village to Aleppo city to sit for her national Grade 9 exams, supported by UNICEF, taking a step closer to her dream of becoming a lawyer.
woman giving session to students in classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Grade 9 students arriving from hard-to-reach areas in rural Aleppo to sit for national exams in Aleppo city take part in a UNICEF-supported psychosocial support session on exam pressure and dealing with stress, at a temporary accommodation centre in Aleppo city.
child receiving boxes from man
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Grade 9 students arriving from hard-to-reach areas in rural Aleppo to sit for national exams in Aleppo city receive personal hygiene and cleaning kits provided by UNICEF at a temporary accommodation centre in Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo city, to help them protect themselves against COVID-19.
boy reading book in classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
“We removed 14 unexploded mines from our farm back in Manbij,” says Ahmad, 15, who used to help his family in farming during his free time from school. When extremist groups took over their village, his family didn’t have any options but to stay and protect their house and the little farm they lived off. Ahmad had to drop out-of-school due to the restrictions imposed on education. “At one point, we would collect green leaves off the ground and cook them to eat,” recalls Ahmad who lived through years of siege. Despite harsh living conditions, Ahmad didn’t lose hope of getting his life back and always daydreamt of going back to school and meeting his friends again. Following respite in violence and the re-opening of schools in Manbij, Ahmad rushed to catch-up with his education. In late July, Ahmad made the trip to Aleppo to sit for his national Grade 9 exams, aspiring to become a teacher one day.