Syrian School Review: Life-Changing Lessons

February 10, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

4asckool300SYRIAN SCHOOL: Wednesday 10 February, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME

I’ll be honest – geography is not one of my strong points. Before watching this documentary about a year in the life of four schools in Syria I knew nothing about the country beyond it’s location “somewhere in the Middle East?.

Turns out it is placed in a politically precarious position between Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Israel – surrounded by war and far from at peace with itself.

It’s capital Damascus, the oldest continuously habited city in the world, is a melting pot of cultures and religions – a mix seen clearly in it’s schools.

Surprisingly, school life in Syria is much like it is in Britain. There are the playground scraps, the good teachers, the dull ones and the annual doom of exam time.

The film crews focus on a handful of students with unique stories and very different backgrounds.

Duaa is the new girl. She has come from a devout Muslim family and until now educated at a very strict school. This term she has come to the liberal Zaki Al-Arsouzi School to get the best grades she can.

There is a face-off with it’s larger-than-life headteacher Mrs Hassan who thinks that girls should stick up for themselves and “be free? – a belief at odds with what Duaa has been taught by her family.

The most moving story is that of keen footballer Yusif, who has joined Jaramana Boys’ School. Chased from Iraq for his Christian faith he is trying to start a new life with his family.

Having experienced the horrors of war he flinches at every firework during a festival in the town and has a quiet wisdom beyond his years.

The pupils’ stories are moving and the programme shows how important education is to these kids. Kind of makes you feel guilty for not paying more attention in geography.