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West Aleppo schools going underground after airstrike kills schoolchildren

Schools in opposition-controlled Aleppo province will be taking schools underground […]

12 January 2016

Schools in opposition-controlled Aleppo province will be taking schools underground to “safeguard students,” an opposition education official told Syria Direct Tuesday, one day after alleged Russian airstrikes killed at least eight schoolchildren in a west Aleppo countryside town.

The Free Aleppo Directorate of Education, the civilian body responsible for education in the rebel-held province, will expand a policy initiated this past October in Aleppo city and “move students to safe schools in underground basements,” director Muhammad Mustafa told Syria Direct Tuesday.

A notice issue by the Education Directorate to all schools in rebel-held Aleppo following Monday’s bombing urged all schools to “modify the schedule of semester exams in light of the current situation” and urged all students to leave “immediately after finishing the exam, without gathering.”

At least eight children and one teacher were among dozens reportedly killed in the town of Anjara, 12km west of Aleppo city, on Monday morning when at least one airstrike struck an elementary and two secondary schools forming part of a single educational complex.

Reports by Syrian monitoring groups and activists differ on the exact number of those killed in the strike, which occurred as students were taking final exams.

Names and identifying information posted by the Aleppo Education Directorate on Facebook on Monday list 20 civilians killed in the airstrike, including children and teachers. The same post lists 14 injured, including six school faculty.

 Children’s shoes lie amongst the rubble in Anjara on Monday. Photo courtesy of Free Aleppo Education Directorate

Opposition media and eyewitnesses allege dozens of Russian airstrikes in eastern and western Aleppo countryside in at least six towns on Monday. Syria Direct could not confirm that Russian planes struck Anjara.

“A formation of eight planes” struck the school, Aws al-Halabi, an activist in the western Aleppo countryside, told Syria Direct Tuesday, echoing statements by Syrians in multiple provinces that Russian planes fly in formation while regime aircraft strike alone.

Russian and Syrian state media did not mention strikes in Anjara.

“This class was the worst hit,” an Anjara resident says in a video posted online Monday by the pro-opposition Aleppo Media Center. Behind him, a classroom is reduced to rubble. “The teacher, she was killed” he says, “we took out four complete bodies, the rest was just body parts.”

 Aftermath of the Anjara airstrike. Photo courtesy of Free Aleppo Education Directorate

In the video, would-be rescuers search through the rubble of overturned desks, pieces of a former ceiling and papers with math equations. On one desk, a book is torn apart. In multiple shots, blood is spotted amidst ghostly grey rubble.

“Life and education can’t stop,” says education director Mustafa.

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