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Fighting for an Education in Idlib

Interview by Joanne Roberts with Teacher from Idlib - Muhmmad Abonassr
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria the first thing to suffer was the children's education as schools were common targets of both Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin. For eight long years now the children have had to deal with death, violence, poverty, displacement and war. Sadly, education had to be put on the back burner as these children moved from place to place to escape airstrikes.

Hidden among this turmoil there is a special group of people who have taken it upon themselves to educate the most vulnerable for the future despite the war. Today, we will speak with 28 year old Syrian Muhmmad Abonassr on why he chose to become a teacher in Idlib and what obstacles he faces on a daily basis.

Q1. What were your dreams as a child?
Like other kids at that time I had a quiet childhood. At age six I went to school and excelled there. From a very young age I had a dream to be a sports journalist, just covering sport. Poverty is what stopped that dream unfortunately.

Q2. When did you decide to start teaching ?
I started thinking about teaching since 2010 when I was studying in the university. After the revolution started in 2011 it was obvious that the first thing affected was Education. I then started teaching in my own home in 2013.

Q3. What was the reason you wanted to teach Idlib's children?
I first started to teach the children in my own home as i could see the suffering of the children. I wanted them to be educated so they could have a bright future. I was especially moved to teach when I saw how many children had to leave school to work. With so many fathers absent it is up to the children to make a living for the family.

Q4. What ages are the students you teach ?
The Children I teach are aged between 6 years and 11 years old.

Q5. Is school safe for the students during airstrikes?
No the school is not safe when there is raids. Unfortunately schools and hospitals are a big target in Idlib. No rules of war are being followed in this conflict and the children are not safe when attending school.

Q6. How do you alleviate their fears?
Most importantly I stay with them all, I take them to the first floor of the building. I find it is better to try and encourage and calm them as much as I possibly can. I give them reassurance.

Q7. Have you lost any students in this conflict?
Sadly I lost three of my young students. Two of them were killed by warplane raids on their house. Another one because of cancer he was suffering from. It was impossible to get the life saving treatment he needed.

Q8. Are the children excited to learn despite the war ?
Most of the children are excited and enjoy being in school despite the war but there are some who are suffering more than others. This makes me even more determined to help them get an education..

Q9. Will you continue teaching after the war ? What are your plans for the future?
I will continue teaching after the war but I don't have specific plans for the future yet. It will be determined by the situation which we will find ourselves in at that time.

Q10. What is the most important thing you would like your students to learn for the future ?
I would like my students to learn about humanity. I want them to help each other always. I would like them to learn the English language as it is my own specialty subject. I will try to create a generation which is able to build our new Syria.

Those in the mainstream media and a few so called journalists have branded those in Idlib all terrorists. As you can digest from the interview they are far from it. They are Syrian men and women who dream with children who need an education. If it was not for the dangerous life saving work that teachers do these children would be devoid of all hope for their future.

The International Community must speak up for the children of Idlib as they are vital in the future of the rebuilding of Syria. Children must be allowed to go to school without the fear of air raids. Not enough is being done to adhere to the rules of war and the children are the innocent victims. Let us all unite to help these children recover from war and use
education as the tool.

For anyone wishing to follow Muhmmad and his school please feel free to follow him on twitter.

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