Two days after state news agency SANA announced the beginning of the 2015–2016 school year for an estimated four million Syrian students, out-of-school children lined up in rebel-held south Damascus on Tuesday, waiting their turn to fill jugs with drinking water.
Syrian state media is “talking about exactly which schools?” Mohammed al-Omri, a south Damascus citizen journalist, sarcastically asked Syria Direct on Wednesday. In al-Qadam and al-Asali, two south-Damascus neighborhoods, home to more than a thousand families, “all the schools are closed,” al-Omri said.
The two south Damascus districts happen to be the same where the Islamic State is trying to expand its foothold. “Al-Qadam is sandwiched between the regime from the west, and the Islamic State, which holds the adjacent neighborhood of al-Asali to the east,” al-Omri explained.
“A lot of children are too poor to stay in school, as they’ve got to work to add a little cash to what money their parents make, if, of course, they’re still alive,” south Damascus journalist Walid al-Aga told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
“Children’s responsibilities belie their age,” reads the caption to the above photo, posted by the Facebook group Revolution’s Spring, a grassroots network in south Damascus.
More than 4,000 schools in Syria lie in disuse, disrepair or ruin, leaving an estimated 2.6 million children out of school–more than a third of Syria’s children, estimates UNICEF.