Last Saturday, 800 children filed into the local school in their northern Syrian hometown for the first time in three years.
Jarablus, a city along the Turkish border in Aleppo province, had been under the control of the Islamic State (IS) since 2013.
During the three-year span, the militant jihadist group closed all schools in the city, offering only dawah centers which taught strictly conservative IS curriculum.
Sadiq al-Hindawy Memorial School was able to open its doors last week following a three-year hiatus after Euphrates Shield, a Turkish-backed operation by the Free Syrian Army, drove IS out of Jarablus.
With the Islamic State expelled from the city, the local council and residents are looking to return back to normal life.
A large component of this transition is reviving their school system and offering educational opportunities to children who have not seen the inside of a classroom since 2013.
A return to normalcy
Mustafa al-Ahmed, a middle-aged father of five, resided in Jarablus during IS’s three-year rule.
During that time, he refused to let his children attend Islamic State-run education centers.
“I didn’t let them go because I was constantly racked with fear that they’d be brainwashed,” he told the Syrian Voice. “That education would be harmful for them.”
Al-Ahmed expressed his happiness that his children would be returning to school in a conversation with a Syrian Voice correspondent.
However, he did mention his worry regarding the added costs of schooling for his children.
The cost of books and school supplies is about SP8,000 ($14), a significant cost for residents due to the region’s devastated economy.
Several Turkish humanitarian groups such as the Anadolu Foundation in collaboration with the Jarablus Local Council have stepped in to assist local families by providing children with new supplies and books for their studies.
For their part, the local council and the al-Hindawy school are working on all fronts to bring education back to Jarablus.
“The curriculum that will be adopted at the school is from the opposition’s Syrian Interim Government,” Issa Bikar, an instructor at the al-Hindawy School, told the Syrian Voice.
When the school year began last Saturday, a number of teachers returned to work without even having their wages set.
“The teaching staff is all local residents,” said Bikar. “They’re all competent teachers with university degrees.”
Despite the hurdles ahead, Mustafa al-Jasim, a school supervisor in Jarablus, is confident in the school’s ability to recover.
“We sent a message to residents in the city and the countryside to apply for [teaching] positions,” he told the Syrian Voice.
Al-Jasim hopes that the school’s reopening encourages residents “outside [Jarablus] to return and participate in the process of developing education.”
Following the success of Operation Euphrates Shield in Jarablus, thousands of displaced residents have returned to the city, a member of local council told TRT World in September.
As the academic year begins, the Jarablus Local Council in collaboration with Turkish humanitarian organizations remains hard at work improving the public works that lapsed during three years under IS rule.
On September 8th, Fatma Sahin, the governor of Gaziantep in Turkey, visited Jarablus and pledged her support to restore public services.
Since that time, a public hospital has opened to serve the city’s 35,000 residents. Water and electricity supplies have been secured and the city’s bread oven is operational once more.
Translated by Tariq Adely