This post was previously published on SyriaUntold.
As military, geostrategic and sectarian aspects of the Syrian conflict monopolize media attention, countless grassroots initiatives continue to challenge the chaos and impunity spreading throughout the country. Chance4Change is one of the latest initiatives focusing on a better future for Syria by ensuring education for the youngest generations.
Launched by civil society youth group Kesh Malek (Checkmate), Chance4Change aims to fund 15 schools in areas free of regime control in order to secure their curriculum and ensure they remain independent.
“Different groups have tried to control the future of the country by throwing money at a school’s principal, to take over the curriculum and management of the school,” writer Marcel Shehwaro explained to SyriaUntold. “This is why it is so important to support civil society attempts to provide a future for the country through a good independent educational system.”
In the words of another of the campaign's founders, in the area where they work “there is no longer the risk that schools will fall in the hands of extremists. We have already dealt with this kind of problem, and one of the reasons for our campaign is to stop donors, whoever they are, from trying to take over schools in Syria and try to force their ideologies on children.”
Regarding the curriculum in the schools, the project follows the official Syrian curriculum, “excluding specificly regime-affiliated subjects, such as the Baath propaganda book called ‘National'”, he adds.
In addition to classes, the project will also provide healthcare for children by linking them with health centers. “Psychological troubles and traumas resulting from the conditions of war will also be dealt with”, Kesh Malek activists explain on the campaign’s website. “Finally, we believe that it is crucial to provide the pupils with skills that can help them throughout their life.”
It is not the first initiative by the Aleppo-based group, which has been focusing on education and non-violence since early in the uprising. Kesh Malek has launched and participated in campaigns such as Eulogy For Fear, and My Country, I Dream… along with cleaning patrols, a new school named under martyr Musfa Qurman, and a festival for children in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr.
Their latest initiative, Chance4Change, calls on groups interested in the future of Syria, including Syrians in the country and abroad, and anyone focused on strengthening civil society to help provide Syrian children with a non-biased education, free of influence from donor ideologies and agendas. To them, they send the following message:
Do you remember lunch period in the old days? When you and your friends used to make sure you got there early enough to save the seat next to you for your close friends and loved ones? Do you remember the lunch lady who always had her angry face on while she served your happy meal?
The vending machine money collector that gets really mad at you when your pop gets stuck and you try to shake the machine to get it down. Remember the locker room jokes right before gym, the whispering and gossiping about the new hot gym instructor? Remember your first homecoming football game? The practice and challenge you had ahead of you especially when the girl you liked came to watch the game and cheered for you?
Those memories are among many things that the new Syrian generation has lost. Because they have to go to a small basement to study, afraid of airstrikes. Because playing in the yard is the new luxury civil society groups cannot afford. But there is still a chance for change:
The chance now is the science teacher who refused to flee
The chance is the local NGO which opens schools in spite of their limited resources.
The chance is some men and women gathered to rebuild a school building in the neighborhood.
And the chance can be you … with a small ten dollar donation, you can pay a class teacher salary, two days of electricity, the class for a week, or buy notebooks to one student for the whole year.
Your donation could be a chance to change the future of these students.