East Ghouta children insist on education despite disabling wartime injuries


February 25, 2016

Ghadeer, a sixth grader, speaks at a ceremony in Douma to honor local students’ achievements on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Yahya a-Batwani.

Children in Damascus’s regime-blockaded East Ghouta suburbs are fighting to continue their education despite disabling wartime wounds with the support of family and local educators.

Ghadeer is one of those children. The sixth-grader was among several local students honored by the East Ghouta Education Directorate, a branch of the opposition Interim Government’s Education Ministry, in a Douma school on Wednesday.

Despite losing her leg and her entire family except her father in an airstrike in late 2015, Ghadeer completed the fall semester of the 2015-2016 school year.

“Ghadeer was insistent on completing her education,” Yahya a-Batwani, a member of the Douma Education Office, told Syria Direct on Thursday. “She didn’t want to lose her education like she lost a part of her body.”

Standing in front of brightly-colored balloons, Ghadeer speaks to attendees at Wednesday’s ceremony, held at a school in Douma that was hit by a regime airstrike in December 2015 that killed its director and a number of children.

Ghadeer’s story is not unique in rebel-held east Ghouta, encircled by regime forces since the end of 2012 and regularly targeted by mortar shelling and air raids.

“Every school in east Ghouta has at least one child with a permanent disability, from amputations to paralysis,” Mohammed Dawud, head of the Ruwad center that operates several schools in the Damascus suburbs, told Syria Direct Thursday.

“The sight of permanently disabled children has become commonplace,” he added.

Some families take extraordinary steps to ensure that their children who have suffered wartime injuries are physically and psychologically able to continue their studies.

When 10-year-old Shahab from Kafr Batna in east Ghouta lost his leg to a regime air raid in early 2015, his father began bicycling with him to school every day, Muadh Abu Umr, Shahab’s neighbor, told Syria Direct Thursday.

“Shahab felt inferior because he couldn’t walk like the rest of his classmates,” Abu Umr added.

“But his family is trying to give him a boost of hope by promising to fashion him an artificial leg after the war is over.”

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