In south Damascus, childhood ends early

September 16, 2015

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. 

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