Syria Faces Education Crisis Especially in Kurdish Heartland

Published February 28th, 2021 - 10:17 GMT
Illiterate adulthood: This is what is facing Syrian kids
Children watch a puppet show performed by a Syrian actor, through a makeshift puppet theatre set up among the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Saraqib in the rebel-held northern Idlib province, on March 27, 2019. Amer ALHAMWE / AFP
A looming education crisis grips Syria’s SDF-controlled areas.

A Kurdish medium school curriculum enforced upon Arab and Kurdish students in parts of SDF-controlled northeastern Syria teaches the PKK terror group's ideology and prevents students from pursuing higher education.

In SDF-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, a school curriculum that is taught in Kurdish and imposes the ideology of the PKK terror group has been forced upon students. Some private institutes and teachers refusing to abide by the curriculum, and that the SDF is struggling to keep education running in the areas they control, Al-Monitor reported

The US-backed SDF is a group dominated by the PKK terror group's Syrian wing, the YPG/PYD. The terror group has been striving for a permanent presence in the region. 

The SDF gradually captured towns from Daesh by 2018 and left the administration to YPG/PYD-controlled councils.

“When the armed factions took control of our areas, they deliberately obliterated anything related to the regime in schools and educational curricula. At the beginning of 2014, the Islamic State (IS, or Daesh) took control of these areas, and the educational process came to a complete halt and was replaced by religious studies by IS preachers in mosques, calling for killing and infidelity,” a father of a student who is attending a private institution following the Arabic curriculum, told Al-Monitor.

“When the SDF took over, students were required to learn about the ideology of the YPG/PYD, which created a new problem. This did not help students to secure their future, especially since the Syrian regime does not recognise the Kurdish curriculum, which in turn was not in line with the reality of the community,” he said. 


The terror group's so-called Autonomous Administration, which was set up in 2014, initially included a limit of five hours of the Kurdish language in the curriculum, according to an employee of the Education Authority in the area who spoke to Ana Press. However, education gradually turned into Kurdish, even for Arab students. 

Having suspended the Syrian regime curriculum, the YPG/PYD in the Jazira region opened lawsuits in December 2020 against 18 institutions that had carried on teaching the Arabic curriculum. The schools refusing the YPG/PYD ideology are being shut down, and officials are being fined an amount of 1 million Syrian pounds ($2,157), Al-Monitor says. 

Dozens of educators were also arrested for teaching the regime curriculum to middle school and high school students in Hasakah.

Meanwhile, teachers in SDF-controlled areas have been on strike since February 21, protesting against the YPG/PYD terror group's arrest of educators.

A diploma that is not recognised elsewhere

The main reason many refuse the YPG/PYD-enforced curriculum are concerns that the students who learn via a Kurdish curriculum, will not be able to continue their higher education in Syrian regime-held areas.

Al-Monitor reports that this is a shared concern of both Kurdish and Arab students, noting that many families, especially of the students who prepare for high school exams, send their children to schools in regime-held areas. This is not only a costly solution but also possibly dangerous.

One teacher who works in a private institution that follows the curriculum of the Syrian regime said that most students from SDF-controlled areas ditch schools that teach YPG/PYD-imposed curriculum, and join private operations instead in order to secure their future. 

“They are not well equipped and the educational cadres are not specialized, just loyal to the authorities,” the teacher said referring to the YPG/PYD appointed so-called officials. 

“The curriculum taught at these schools was established by the PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan. But even officials in the Autonomous Administration send their children to private institutes and schools, as they are the best in the area,” he said.

The Syrian National Coalition condemned the arrest of teachers and activists who reject the ideology of YPG/PYD terror group and their curriculum. 

The arrest of teachers is “nothing but a continuation of a desperate plan targeting the structure of the Syrian society by imposing a project that seeks to distort culture and history in the service of the PKK terrorist organization's agendas and malign ideology,” the coalition said in a statement. 

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

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