Blackboards Over Bullets: How One Ravaged Syrian Town Reopened Its School
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The civil war in Syria has left millions of kids without schools. At great personal risk, one town has come together to rebuild its classrooms

Syria’s civil war has been raging for three years now, and as with any war, it has destroyed the country’s education infrastructure. Shelling, airstrikes and territorial battles between the Syrian government and opposition forces have crushed many school buildings, and in places where schools remain, many families either keep their kids at home or flee the area entirely because they are simply too afraid.

Across northern Syria, where the opposition is strongest, the government appears to be targeting schools with its shelling campaigns. It’s a challenge to find a school that hasn’t been damaged or entirely destroyed. According to UNICEF, 2.8 million Syrian children are currently out of school. Of those, 2.3 million kids still live in Syria, representing 40% of all school-age children in the country.

“When one says that it is the worst place to be as a child, in Syria, for now, I would agree,” says Hamida Lasseko, the deputy representative for UNICEF.

The war is taking an emotional and psychological toll on kids, and some parents and educators in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, decided to do something about it.

In Maarrat al-Nu’man, a city in Idlib province that had a prewar population of 60,000, the Almandine school had been damaged by the fighting between government and rebel forces. The town lies on the strategic Aleppo-Damascus M5 Highway, and while it is under opposition control now, it still comes under fire from the Syrian government base on the outskirts of town. Much of the city is in ruins, and for more than a year, the school sat abandoned or was used by rebel fighters as a refuge.

As the war dragged on, some local parents and teachers realized they had to do something to give their kids an education beyond hanging out on the street and listening to war stories. They decided to rebuild the school.