UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Mr Qian Tang visited Damascus on 28 November 2017 to assess firsthand the significant contribution of the Organization to the rebuilding of the Syrian Arab Republic’s national education system.
The visit, at the invitation of the Minister of Education H.E. Dr Hazwan Al-Wazz invited Mr Tang, ,marks UNESCO’s first high-level official call to the country since the crisis began in 2011.
During their bilateral meeting, the Minister provided an overview of the Ministry of Education’s initiatives, to ensure the safe return of children to school despite the difficult conditions, particularly in Aleppo, where 300 schools are already functioning. He said that the Ministry was taking steps to ensure the continuation of quality education of these children in schools in order to guarantee their rights to education as stipulated in the country’s Constitution. Dr Al-Wazz explained that approximately 500,000 students had already returned to the country and enrolled in schools since the beginning of 2017 and that 3.3 million students were currently registered in learning institutions.
UNESCO’s response to Syria’s educational crisis
The Minister commended UNESCO’s efforts to respond to the acute educational crisis in the country, which includes the training in accelerated learning for second chance opportunity programme of 7,000 teachers, which benefitted 120,000 students, 86% of whom passed the final examination to continue learning. UNESCO also rehabilitated 10 schools, constructed 12 mobile classrooms with sanitary facilities and provided equipment to a number of schools in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, and the southwestern countryside of Raqqa. The Minister also expressed his country’s firm commitment to SDG4-Education 2030 as the ultimate vision of education to guide national education development.
Mr Tang expressed his appreciation of UNESCO’s special and privileged communication with the Ministry of Education. He said that despite the huge challenges faced by Syria, he appreciated the strong efforts made by the Ministry to address the repercussions of the crisis on the education sector, particularly through the reform of Syria’s national education system. This is led by diversifying learning pathways, improving quality of learning through a new national curriculum framework and revised assessment system, and strengthening national system by way of ensuring availability and use of quality data through Education Management Information System (EMIS).
He went on to assure the Minister of UNESCO’s enhanced partnership through its Regional Bureau located in Beirut, Lebanon and renewed commitment to mobilize the necessary resources, particularly for the implementation of the Syria Country Plan for 2018-2019, included in the UNESCO Arab Regional Strategic Framework for Education in Emergencies. Mr Tang continued to affirm that UNESCO is extremely well positioned to support the recovery and reconstruction of the country’s national education system as the lead agency in the education sector development, especially in access and quality education and system strengthening.
Official launch of strategic framework
Following the meeting, the Minister and Mr Tang officially launched the UNESCO’s Strategic Framework for Education in Emergencies in the Arab Region, which had previously been launched at a global level at UNESCO Headquarters last month. This strategic framework aims to support Member States to meet their educational needs in times of crisis, and commitments set out in SDG4-Education 2030 Agenda. Amounting to US$ 16,9 million, the Syria Country Plan for the period 2018-2019 is UNESCO’s plan of action to scale up critical interventions around four Strategic Goals on access, quality teaching, quality learning and system strengthening under the leadership of Ministries of Education and Higher Education, in partnership with the Syrian National Commission for UNESCO and international and national partners.
An encouragement for youth
As part of his visit, the Assistant Director-General met with students from grades 1 to 6 at the Tadbikat Maslakieh School. He also visited the National Curriculum Development Center, the National Center for the Evaluation of Education and UNESCO Category II Early childhood care and education (ECCE) Center, which all contribute to the rebuilding process of the country’s national education system. Together with the Secretary-General of the Syria Trust for Development, Mr Fares Kallas, Mr Tang inaugurated the Bab Sharqi Library at the Bar Sharqi Manara community learning centre. The library provides youth and students access to books and information on a range of subjects from science to literature to culture in both Arabic and English. Mr Tang stated that the library is an encouragement for the youth to contribute to the development of their country, adding that the library comes as one of the organization’s commitment to support development through education, science and culture.