Three years ago, a group of friends met in Dubai to discuss how best to help those suffering from the ongoing tragedy unfolding in Syria. After much debate, they decided to narrow their focus to one thing: ta’alim, or learning in Arabic. And so, Ta’alim, a small nonprofit, was born. Its objectives were simple: support education efforts in Syria. They decided to do so by supporting running schools in various parts of Syria that were no longer being served by the government, and by rebuilding schools that had been damaged in fighting.
Since 2013, Ta’alim has renovated 18 schools, six of which are sponsored by Karam Foundation.
Several weeks ago, we spoke with Adnan Tarabishy, Ta’alim’s spokesperson who is based in Beirut. We spoke with him about the challenges that Syrian students face and the challenges that Ta’alim has faced in their efforts.
With the majority of their schools in Northern Syria, the challenges that Ta’alim faces in their school support are not quite what one would expect. During our conversation, Tarabishy said that one of the biggest challenges facing the organization is simply the inability to plan ahead.
“We open up a school expecting 300 students to enroll, but due to the ongoing fighting and displacement, 500 will show up. How do we turn them away? We can’t. So we have to find a solution,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of different, creative solutions to make this work.”
Another problem that they face is the lack of curriculum. With the country caught in a civil war, developing a curriculum for students is very difficult, especially when schools no longer want to teach subjects that were enforced by the government. As a result, there is a severe inconsistency between the agendas and curriculums between each school. The current official oppositional bodies have not offered to develop a new one and have not taken advice from those advocating for the development of a modern, updated curriculum, Tarabishy said.
In addition to the inability to plan ahead and lack of curriculum, another major issue that Ta’alim faces is logistics. “Every time, we have to determine how to get materials and money into Syria. Due to the current situation, we can no longer train our directors in Turkey or Lebanon, which means we unfortunately lose out on being able to support them entirely in their positions,” he lamented. He went on to describe the hardship of operating in places that are under siege by all parties privy to the war.
Luckily, Ta’alim’s schools are considered “netural” and left alone by local armed groups. Nobody interferes with the way that they run, which is a result of the strong local partnerships that enable Ta’alim to operate in the capacity that it does today.
Tarabishy acknowledged that their work wouldn’t be possible without the positive partnership that they have with the local community. At the Ta’alim schools, it costs about $100 to sponsor one student for a year and about $2,000 - $3,000 a month to operate the schools. Luckily, Ta’alim is able to get donations and grants to sustain their work. Their goal is ultimately to find permanent donors and sponsors to keep the schools running. 7 of the 18 schools that Ta’alim has renovated are no longer funded by them, having found alternative funding sources through other organizations or local councils.
Karam Foundation is proud to partner with an organization that does such amazing and necessary work. At Karam, we believe in the power and need for education and are happy to support Ta’alim’s efforts to educate the most needy. Ensuring a future for Syria's youth means working with innovative ideas and solutions to difficult situations. Ta'alim's ability to work despite sieges, constant bombardment and attack, as well as the day to day logistical difficulties proves their education to a most worthwhile cause.