The death toll of the earthquake from last week in Syria and Turkey has surpassed 33,000. Many bodies are being found every day, and the devastation is unimaginable. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit an already embattled region, furthering the demise of children and families. The United Nations estimate that the earthquake has affected 10.9 million people and as many as 5.3 million people may have lost their homes as a result of the earthquake (NYT, 2023).
A Reuters article describes the devastation that the educational system has endured in Syria. To exemplify the effects of the earthquake, they describe the modest kawkab al- Tofoula (Children’s planet) nursery, which is owned by Ramadan al-Suleiman in northern Syria. The nursery, which once hosted 100 toddlers, is now pummeled. Nothing but cinder blocks and twisted metal is left behind. There are dusty pictures of the toddlers who were once occupants of the nursery strewn around the site (Gebeily, 2023).
Suleiman doubts that the teachers and children are going to be coming back. “We lost two of the female teachers from the important cadres at the school. We lost seven or eight students that we know of,” he told the reporters at Reuters (2023)..
The education system for children was already faltering in Syria. The country has been battling a war since 2011, and the war was still ongoing when the earthquake shook the country, demolishing many towns. Schools have found themselves regularly closing down due to violent fighting and mortar fire by rebel groups. The Syrian government and Russia would regularly send airstrikes, further causing the need for school shutdowns in the country (Gebeily, 2023).
According to a United Nations report, the earthquake has resulted in the complete destruction of more than 115 schools in Syria as well as causing serious damage to hundreds more. Many of these schools are now being used as makeshift shelters to host the thousands of people that are now homeless because their homes and apartments came crashing down (Gebeily, 2023).
Suleiman has been working to track some of the nursery children, as he has not heard from their families. “I went to buildings where I know some of the students live- and 90% of them were destroyed,” said Suleiman. “There are some pupils that I suspect are dead because we cannot reach their families at all” (Gebeily, 2023).
Rescuers across the country have been trying to find children under the rubble. Some children were found miraculously alive after a week under the rocks but are in need of help, as they have been left orphaned. Many children did not make it (Gebeily, 2023).
Mohammed Hassan said that he still does not know what happened to his seven-year-old daughter Lafeen’s friends and classmates. “We asked around and discovered that one of her teachers died, may God bless her soul,” Haasan told the reporters as Lafeen sat quietly in his lap (2023).
“She is shocked, she asks me to go see if something happened to the kindergarten. I’m telling her nothing happened and I will take you there once it reopens,” said Hassan (Gebeily, 2023).
Syrian children are facing unimaginable pain. We must do all that we can to ensure that we’re protecting communities that are impoverished and require our help. The communities struggling most are often the ones that have no spotlight. Thousands of children and families in Turkey and Syria find themselves in a devastating situation.
Gebeily, M. (2023, February 12). After quake, Syrian schools silent as teachers, students perish Reuters. Thomson Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/after-quake-syrian-schools-silent-teachers-students-perish-2023-02-12/?taid=63e91d71be05cf0001785b44&utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter
NYT. The New York Times. (2023, February 10). What We Know About the Earthquake in Turkey and Syria. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/10/world/middleeast/earthquake-turkey-syria-toll-aid.html?name=styln-turkey-earthquake®ion=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=Article&variant=undefined&is_new=false