27 August 2014, Qamishly, Syria - It's holiday time, but for three days of every week, Lama, a fifth grader, attends a UNICEF-supported school club in Safi Al-Dien Al-Heli School in Qamishly, a town in northeast Syria. "Last year, I stayed all summer at home without electricity and water," she said. "I couldn't even watch TV.
"Back then, I thought coming to school in summer would be a pain, but now I love it. I count the days to know when the next school club is so I can meet my friend Rania and the teacher," she added happily.
For thousands of children in Syria, summer vacation is no longer about taking a break from their hectic school lives. On the contrary, with displacement and violence regularly interrupting normal classes, many children around the country used their summer break to visit school clubs and catch up on lost school days.
Over the summer, 400 UNICEF-supported school clubs reached close to 328,000 children in 10 of Syria's 14 governorates, providing remedial classes that help children catch up on education and feel more confident when the school year starts. Nearly 40 per cent of these clubs are in hard-to-reach areas.
"At this summer school club we provide remedial classes for students in addition to recreational activities," said Itab, Lama's teacher. "I have been teaching for more than 15 years, but this is the first time I've had summer clubs with my students. I see the difference these clubs can make to students' learning needs... and how their learning improves by leaps and bounds when the children interact with friends, especially during classes like music, sports and arts."
These summer classes should have the knock-on effect of seeing more children enroll in school when the new academic year begins. "Thanks to the school clubs, we hope to see an improvement in enrollment rates this coming semester," said Amson Simbolon, the Education Sector Coordinator in Syria.
None of this could happen without different organisations on the ground working together. For example, the school clubs are supported by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and other partners, while earlier this month, the Syria Education Sector, which is led by UNICEF, conducted an orientation session for 25 local NGOs in Qamishly on education in emergencies to help coordinate our interventions for the coming school year.