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In Syria Camp, Young Teachers Challenge Coronavirus

In Syria Camp, Young Teachers Challenge Coronavirus

Wednesday, 1 April, 2020 - 12:00
Internally displaced boy, Mahmoud Abdel Hadi, 8, does his homework received on mobile, inside his tent after his tented school was shut due to the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria March 30, 2020. Picture taken March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Asharq Al-Awsat

After bombs forced him and his students from their homes, Ahmed Hadaja began teaching in a tent in northwest Syria. And now that the threat of coronavirus has shut even his tented school, he has found a way to carry on.


"We're urging parents to help their kids study well in their own tents, to do the homework and then message it so that we can correct," Hadaja, a 21-year-old medic and volunteer Arabic teacher, told Reuters.


In the sprawling Atmeh camp near the Turkish border, he sends video lessons online via Whatsapp.


When local authorities closed schools and mosques in northwest Syria in recent weeks, Hadaja shifted to digital learning, trying to fill the education gap for his students who had already lost much to the conflict.


After a regime offensive that uprooted a million people in the northwest in recent months and upended their lives, he hoped to retain some sense of normalcy for the children living in tents without enough running water, let alone laptops.


Along with five other young teachers, Hadaja created a Whatsapp group on the messaging app for each class from the first to the fourth grade. They send brief video lessons and homework to the phones of the parents.


"We shut the teaching tent to prevent gatherings... We fear an outbreak," he added.


"But here, even if the schools shut, the tents are close to each other and you can't really isolate well. You tell people to stay home, but what homes?"


Doctors fear the worst if the coronavirus hits Syria's northwest where hospitals lie in ruins and camps overflow with people devastated by nine years of war.


Test kits arrived this week with no confirmed cases yet, according to Reuters.


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