Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Poverty Weighs Heavy on Dreams of Damascene Youth

Poverty Weighs Heavy on Dreams of Damascene Youth

Tuesday, 3 September, 2019 - 06:30
Students head to school in the capital, Damascus, Syria, AFP

In the Syrian capital, Damascus, Maysoon’s happiness for completing primary education with an outstanding grade of 85% was destroyed by reality as her family’s poverty deterred any hopes of her pursuing a high school education focused on sciences.

Barely holding back her tears at family gatherings, Maysoon is quietly preparing for this school year with a long face and grave silence. Instead of heading to regular public school, she will join an all-female secondary school.

“What is my fault so that I’m deprived of going into sciences… This is a great injustice,” Maysoon lashes out when one of her relatives asks about why she was acting unusually sad.

Education in Syria is divided into three stages: primary, secondary, and university.

Studying at an all-female school instead of a public high school with a focus on sciences will stunt Maysoon’s childhood dreams of becoming an architect.

“I do not know how I will continue studying in the all-female branch. I will definitely fail because I don't want it,” she said with desperation cracking through her soft voice.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Maysoon’s father explains that his decision to send his girl away from her dreams was forced by the family’s ailing financial situation.

“Studying in the scientific branch then finishing university has become a pricy long process, and I am barely managing a living,” he said, adding that going to an all-female school will qualify Maysoon to earn a spot at a vocational college and find a job all within two years.

With the family’s breadwinner suffering the war’s aftermath, an extra paycheck can help.

On Monday, and amid an ongoing eight-year-old civil war, a new school year kickstarted in areas controlled by the Syrian government. About 3.7 million students have joined 12,791 schools across various governorates, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Education.

It is worth noting that the suffering of Syrians has been doubled by a plummeting national currency which depreciated nearly 13 fold to stand at 640 Liras for a dollar. This coincided with commodity prices shooting up to unprecedented heights.

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