Al-Monitor: The coronavirus causes schools in northeastern Syria to use Internet in education

Selava Omar –

Students in northeastern Syria are currently learning online – a challenge to the Kurdish-led self-management area where electricity and the Internet are weak under the conditions of ongoing war, however, the new coronavirus is not the only reason the local authorities have chosen to use the Internet for distance education ..

“Sherine Himo”, director of education for Kurdish-led self-administration in northern and eastern Syria, said the epidemic was the latest disaster to shut down schools in the area.

“When Turkey attacked, schools closed and before ISIS occupied some areas, and then with the coronavirus, we had to have an alternative,” Hemo told Al-Monitor.

In October, after Turkey felt that a Kurdish presence near its territory might pose a threat to its security and stability, it attacked the sites of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces along its borders and continued clashes between the SDF and pro-Turkish factions, in addition to these attacks, continued Turkey, has intermittently cut off water in the region.

Children in northeastern Syria are currently learning in their own languages ​​online and on TV, this new use of technology may present difficulties, but may still be used even after the COVID-19 crisis.
Northeast Syria, which the Kurds call “Rojava”, is a state controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, and has limited recognition from Damascus, the Kurdish political party, the Democratic Union Party is the main political force there, the diverse region is home to the Kurds, Syriac Christians, Yazidis, Arabs and Turkmen .

The region achieved effective independence early in the civil war and the authorities of the independent administration quickly gave children the opportunity to study in Arabic, Kurdish, or Syriac – a type of Aramaic spoken by Christians, and the Syrian government prior to the outbreak of the war in the country, had severely suppressed the use of the Kurdish language in The country, which makes this the first time that Syrian Kurds can study in the Kurdish language in modern times.

Self-administration imposed a ban to mitigate the spread of the virus last March, and schools have remained closed since then.

There are now 4317 schools under the supervision of independent self-management in northeastern Syria, in addition to 33 schools linked to the Syrian government، according to the “Rojava” Information Center – a research organization based in the region’s capital, “Qamishli”.

Education has been tough recently – not just because of the coronavirus.

Conditions of war with Turkey forced many children to flee from western autonomous regions such as Tell Tamr in the middle of the school year, with many going to the cities of Hasaka and Qamishli, some schools were not usable at the time because they were hosting the displaceds. Before that, children left their areas and schools because of ISIS.

Administrative bodies in northeastern Syria often have a female and male chief for ideological reasons.

“We always had difficult circumstances, and when Turkey attacked Hasakah and Qamishli last October, her team began discussing alternatives to education in schools,” Hemo added.

She added: “There were explosions and we had to think about what to do with the lessons.”

The closing of the schools due to the Coruna virus was the motivation to eventually move classes online.
New classes and classes on the Internet in the TV program called “Dibistana Male”, which means “school at home” in Kurdish. There are classes in self-management schools now on the local “Rojava TV” six days a week and on the “Dibistana Male” channel on YouTube. The channel is updated daily with videos in Kurdish and Arabic.

Each video contains an animated introduction where the virtual teacher writes the subject of the lesson and its number on the board, then the teacher presents a lesson usually lasting 15 to 30 minutes, talks to the camera and writes on the board.

All basic subjects are covered, and some history lessons relate to the recent political situation between the Kurds, Turkey and the Arab world. One of the historical video clips is called “resistance movements against the Ottoman occupation in the Arab countries.”

The program contains only three cameras and visualizes six days a week, according to what stated by “Himo”, and each teacher has 15-20 students who is in contact with them through the application “WhatsApp” in addition to giving video lectures, and said that all grades of students before The university takes these lessons except for young children in primary school.

Some universities in northeastern Syria also use online education after the self-management decision, including Rojava University in Qamishli.
The endeavor is not without issues, the weakness of electricity and slow internet are the biggest difficulties, most areas in northeastern Syria without electricity for several hours a day, which makes people depend on the generator system, and the region is also characterized by relatively slow internet speeds, sometimes less than 3G. Not everyone has constant access to electricity and the Internet.

Noman Othman, who teaches English and translation at Rojava University, said he knows late at night because the power outages are less frequent at the time and the internet is somewhat faster.

Othman told Al-Monitor, “I am studying students between 8 and 11 pm because there is good electricity and the Internet.” “The network is fairly good at the time.”

Osman teaching his students via Zoom, a video app that people all over the world use for closings due to the Corona pandemic.

Political isolation in northeastern Syria is a problem here. The University of Rojava, for example, lacks international accreditation, and this means that teachers do not have access to “Zoom” accounts for companies that allow unlimited calls. Therefore, “Othman” must perform several zoom sessions during the three hours he studies each a night.

Despite these difficulties, Himo said, management regards the Internet as a “best solution.”

The response of the coronavirus in north-eastern Syria faces many obstacles. The region lacks testing capabilities and strains its health-care infrastructure due to the devastating war years The United Nations’ preferential relationship with the Syrian government has resulted in a limited amount of assistance reaching the area.

Nevertheless, having to take online lessons in the difficult context of the virus in a war-torn region has a positive side, and Othman said he has benefited from improving his “PowerPoint” skills during the university’s closure and will continue to integrate the Internet in teaching in the future.

“When we return to our classes, I will continue to connect to the Internet because it is very useful,” he said.

And “Himo” added that online teaching technology will be a source for years to come.

And she said, “If you need it in a year or five, education will be on the Internet.” “Not only in these circumstances.”

Source: Al-Monitor

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