|The male and female teachers with their pupils in the cave (see video below)|
Caves in Syria have evolved.
Instead of being a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter, one such cave has turned into a crammed and naturally partitioned underground classroom for children aged six to nine.
If you don’t believe me, take a close look at the pictures above and watch the video below.
The pictures and video were filmed in the hills of the Jabal al-Zawiya area, some 40 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital Idlib.
President Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces killed about 200 people in those same hills on 19 and 20 December 2011, most of them army defectors trying to flee to Turkey from their base in Kan Safra.
For several months now, Assad’s regime has been using helicopters and warplanes to drop cluster bombs and barrels of TNT indiscriminately on homes, hospitals, pharmacies, schools, historic markets, museums, mosques, cars, bakeries and fuel queues in countless cities, towns and villages.
The human cost of Assad’s war on “terrorist gangs” since March last year has also been staggering: more than 30,000 deaths, about half-a-million refugees, and 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
To safely educate the few remaining school-age children in Idlib province from Assad’s carpet-bombing, volunteer teachers took to the hills of Jabal al-Zawiya, where they are now organizing classes for them in caves.
Here is what the video camera recorded (in Arabic) in one of the caves:
The teacher asks:
Who can fill in the blank? 4 + 2 = ----?
Teacher after looking at raised hands:
Basheer, come forward.
Basheer gives the right answer:
Bravo, excellent. Give him (Basheer) a clap.
Interviewer asks teacher:
What drove you to hold classes in caves?
The reason? The violent and endless air bombardments and the campaign against the village of Kan Safra (in Jabal al-Zawiya). They (Assad warplanes) drop TNT barrels on homes, people and the streets. That’s why we are forced to hold classes in caverns and caves.
What problems are you facing in such field schools?
A picture is better than words. What can I say, I don’t know. There’s no light in here. Primitive equipment is lacking. There’s too much suffering at this level… But we’ve covered some ground. We are now holding classes for four primary grades in various caves. On average, we give one class lesson a day to each grade. Next to us here, for instance, a female colleague is giving a lesson to another grade. There are also classes being held in caves elsewhere.
In numbers, how many schoolchildren are you able to hold?
Attendance is good, but numbers? It varies. Most children have taken refuge in Turkey or other governorates. We’re teaching the remaining children in caves.
What equipment are you lacking?
Of course, the shortfall is huge. We’ve received some help and were able to tidy the cave and get some stationery and a blackboard. We sought some benches because the pupils are finding it a bit difficult like this.
Interviewer asks a pupil:
Tell me, why are you attending class in this cave?
Because they bombed our school.
What would you want the regime to do?
We look forward to Bashar’s exit so we can return to our school.
Interviewer asks a second pupil:
What do you ask of the regime?
To leave us alone because it is killing us... It’s not allowing us to go to school. We’re now studying in caves.
And what do you wish to study when you grow up?
I wish to become a doctor.
Western media would hasten to parrot, as they have been doing since mid-March 2011, “The authenticity of the video footage could not be independently confirmed.” But let me say for a change, “I can confirm the authenticity of the footage.”
I will leave it for Western and Russian media to continue counting the number of “bearded and turbaned jihadists, Muslim extremists, Salafists and Chechens” taking over Syria.