Damascus Syrian School Map
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[[TEMPLATE image,10764,1,left,,,,,,,,,,]]This is a girls-only state school, with 1,200 pupils aged between 16-18 years. It is situated on one side of a large square in a central district of Damascus. The local population is relatively well-to-do, cosmopolitan and forward thinking. The girls are predominantly Muslim and the majority of the girls wear the hijab. The school has around 100 Palestinian and 10 Iraqi pupils and is a good example of a school that a fairly well-off family would send their child to.
The outstanding feature of this school is the determined and strong character Mrs Amal Hassan, the school’s headmistress, who works with her deputy to reflect the values of freedom of thought and independence. Together, they challenge a number of widely held preconceptions, particularly those about women who wear the hijab, and are keen to secure a good education for their 'girls,' ambitious for them to secure places at university. They both think, with real conviction, that they achieve 'freedom' by the way they dress, and offer contrasting role models to the girls.
The girls appear to like and respect the head and their teachers. They are self possessed, confident and well-spoken. Mrs Hassan encourages them to learn and to think for themselves, which may be slightly unusual in Syrian schools.
[[TEMPLATE image,10766,1,left,,,,,,,,,,]]This is the only girls' secondary school in Yarmouk. Home to 1,210 girls aged 15-18, it’s based in the heart of Yarmouk Refugee Camp - a permanent part of the city, which started out as temporary accommodation for Palestinian refugees over 60 years ago. Due to its location, 90% of its pupils are Palestinian, with the remaining 10% made up of Syrian or Iraqi refugees. It’s a poor area of the city and the Palestinian schools have moved on from United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) primary and intermediate schools which were set up specifically to take Palestinian refugees.
The head teacher, Mrs Ghada Dallol, sees herself as the Syrian host to the Yarmouk Palestinian community. She says she would rather be a student today than in her day as there is so much more in terms of facilities and communication, and loves getting good results from talented students.
Sports and music are an important part of the school curriculum. Pupils take part in drawing and music competitions in November and March, whilst theatre is studied through the local Youth Union. 95% of pupils go on to university or institutes which offer more vocational courses.
[[TEMPLATE image,10768,1,left,,,,,,,,,,]]This is a small, cramped, boys intermediate school (grades 7-9) in a mixed area of Damascus.
The children all come from the local Jaramana area, which is a relatively low rent, lower-middle class area. Many of the Syrians are originally from different parts of Syria and are in Damascus due to gradual rural – urban migration. The students are mostly Muslim or Druze but there are Christians in the mix. Before the Invasion of Iraq there were 400 students, but Iraqi refugees since have swelled the head count to 500. The head teacher, Mrs Amal Seif, only started at the school this academic year.
The Student Council is a central part of school life, with council members organising school trips and keeping order - they're involved in disciplining the boys in the cramped school yard at break time and are not afraid to use some muscle.
Due to the recent swell in numbers, converted storerooms provide classrooms to make room for the Iraqis. Hard work is needed to avoid making it a 2 shift school which would dilute the spirit of the school. However, even though the Iraqis put a strain on the school they are viewed with compassion and welcomed. The Syrian boys think the Iraqis are ‘cool’.
[[TEMPLATE image,10770,1,left,,,,,,,,,,]]Unusually for a Syrian primary school, this is a boys-only school, teaching children aged 6-11 in grades 1-5. The head teacher is Soha Nasah Inglesi, who’s been at the school for 27 years. There are 1,200 students, taught over morning and afternoon shifts. However, formal education measures are highly prized and pupils have regular tests throughout the year and success is publicly recognised by pupils, staff and parents.
The school is in a semi-rural suburb of south-eastern Damascus. Whilst apartment blocks surround the school, the open countryside is just 5 minutes away. Most of the parents are farmers, with their fields lying within 2km of the school. The school reflects the needs of its hinterland and as such is a centre for rural and agricultural activities, the 4th and 5th grade pupils receiving agricultural training for 3 hours a week. The school has its own small farm on site with chickens and goats as well as some small areas of crops, and has a designated agriculture classroom.