Stories for Syrians: Grassroots radio station helps distressed children

Published May 31st, 2015 - 04:00 GMT

Radio SouriaLi produces material for children and Syrian families aimed at supporting the distressed psychologically and morally, offering general knowledge as well as providing a stage for children to express themselves as “children”. In programs such as “we tell stories or we sleep” (in Arabic: Nihki wallannam), they focus on the beautiful memories of children’s games, stories and jokes from the days before the conflict. It also aspires to preserve Syrian culture from decay since millions have now emigrated to other countries across the globe.

 SouriaLi is a regional grassroots radio station dedicated to working with Syrian and Arab peoples in fostering an advanced level of awareness of civil society, active citizenship, communication, women's empowerment, youth motivation, and peace-building through high quality music, performance and public affairs programming.

 “We hope to inform and educate active individuals and inspire them to work towards the future of a democratic and better world,” a representative from SouriaLi station told us.

While SouriaLi offers children the possibility to express themselves, like sharing ideas on how to contribute to the future of Syria in programs such as “childhood dreams” (in Arabic: Ahlam Tufoula), it also broadcasts the traditions of Syrian children as they were when they actually went school – and even the way children used to play back then. In addition, the station gives children the chance of learning through playing, which was an unconventional method for the traditional schools before the war. 

In several audio podcasts similar to “childhood dreams”, SouriaLi gave children an opportunity to freely express their opinion and to ask and answer questions forbidden under the rule of Hafez Al-Assad and his son Bashar Al-Assad. One of these questions was: “If you were the president of Syria, what would you do?” To be sure, answers were both innocent and sweet, but also seriously affected by the grievances of the Syrian people. One child said, “I would care for the poor,” and another: “I would build as many schools as possible.” A third promised to “respect the law so people learn from me.” 

These questions and answers produce a structure of thought unlike the learning structures previously existing in Syria. While learning structures in Syria were influenced by a totalitarian political party, the Baath Party, SouriaLi attempts to produce programs that foster an environment of critical thinking, in which children learn the difference between, for example, the concept of government and the concept of state. 

According to our analysis, the main feature SouriaLi employs is the narrative and dialectic style. Through its programs for children, SouriaLi uses simple, interesting and traditional stories such as “Cinderella” and “The Sleeping Beauty” and tries to compare them to the reality in Syria, focusing on the positive prospects for the Syrian future. In a narrative style, SouriaLi sends messages to children urging them to focus on building rather than destroying, forgiveness rather than revenge and tolerance rather than extremism. 

By Hakim Khatib & Mohammad Hamdash

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