Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

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Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
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Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
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Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
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Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018

Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

  • Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side

ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.

Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.


Palestinian official Erekat in critical, stable condition

Updated 41 min 14 sec ago

Palestinian official Erekat in critical, stable condition

  • Erekat was receiving artificial respiration in the intensive care unit at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center
  • He was a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas

JERUSALEM: Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat remained in critical but stable condition in an Israeli hospital Tuesday, his family said, after he was infected with the coronavirus.
Erekat’s family told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that he was receiving artificial respiration in the intensive care unit at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center.
Erekat, 65, has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past several decades, serving as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas.
He was hospitalized Sunday at the Jerusalem hospital despite the Palestinian leadership’s decision earlier this year to sever ties with Israel over plans to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank as part of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan.
The hospital said Monday that Erekat’s case was extremely challenging in light of his history of health problems, including a lung transplant in 2017. It said he suffered from a weak immune system, and a bacterial infection in addition to COVID-19.