After years of regime bombardment from the air, students in opposition-controlled Aleppo are now studying in damp, makeshift classrooms underground.
The school year began in September school buildings previously held by the government, but classes were moved underground following a decree from the Directorate of Education on October 4 “to protect the safety of the students from regime bombing.”
There are 140 such underground school complexes, outfitted with desks and blackboards—or unhinged doors, when blackboards are unavailable—serving the 40,000 students living in opposition-controlled Aleppo, Mahmoud al-Qudsi, the director of the opposition Aleppo Council’s Education Office, told Syria Direct on Monday.
Classes are currently being held in basements and commercial spaces below street level.
“We take advantage of any space that we can use to teach underground,” al-Qudsi said.
Subterranean spaces “are, of course, not spaces for teaching,” the education official said, citing inadequate lighting and weak ventilation, among other problems. “Water leaks into the basements, and voices carry between different classes since there aren’t always real walls between the different classrooms.”
To help with lighting, some schools have resorted to “traditional sources” such as candles and gas-powered lamps, although there are plans to use safer solar-powered lighting sources, said Ahmad Salah, a member of the opposition-controlled interim Ministry of Education.
“Our efforts to fix these issues are limited by our resources, but we are trying,” said Osama Taljo, the head of the Aleppo Council.
“It is the security circumstances that force us to work in this way.”
Students have also adopted a new protocol when leaving school at the end of the day, said al-Salah.
“Students leave in different waves to avoid big gatherings, so that they don’t become a target for bombardment.”
- Photo courtesy of Step News Agency