While the war with ISIS rages on in central and southern Syria, the school year is starting for children in the Kurdish region of Syria, also known as Rojava.
More than 31,000 Kurdish children have been enrolled in over 300 schools for the 2015-2016 school year. For the first time, teachers at these schools are able to speak using the Kurdish language, which was previously banned in Syria.
Kurdish Language in Syria
For decades, Kurds living in Syria were systematically suppressed by the Syrian government. Many were not granted citizenship, and Kurdish language and culture was outlawed.
According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian Kurds were not allowed to use the Kurdish language, were not allowed to register babies with Kurdish names, were not allowed to attend private Kurdish schools, and were banned from publishing books or other written materials in Kurdish.
This changed when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011. When the government withdrew from the Kurdish regions of Syria, the Kurds established strongholds called “cantons” in northern Syria.
Today, there are three Kurdish cantons in northern Syria; Afrîn (or Efrîn), Kobane, and Jazira (or Cîzrê). Collectively, these cantons are known as Rojava (which is Kurdish for “Western Kurdistan”).
31,000 Students in Afrîn
Although war continues in many parts of Syria, Rojava is a safe enclave for Kurds and other Syrians seeking refuge from the war.
Children in Rojava have the opportunity to study using the Kurdish language, free from oppression by the Syrian government. In particular, the western-most canton of Rojava, Afrîn, has been celebrated for enrolling 31,000 students for the 2015-2016 school year.
31,000 students have been enrolled in primary schools in Afrîn Canton since the 2015-2016 school year began on September 28th.
Verifying these numbers, Afrîn Canton’s Democratic Society Education Committee has reported having distributed 31,000 uniforms and books for primary school students, free of charge.
Teaching in “Mother Tongue”
According to ANF News, a Kurdish news agency, more than 1,600 teachers have started teaching using their mother tongue — Kurdish — which was previously banned by the Syrian government.
The new Kurdish-language program was started after amendments were made to Afrîn Canton’s education system. With help from Afrîn Canton’s Democratic Society Education Committee, 1625 teachers and 306 schools in Afrîn Canton have begun to institute the use of Kurdish language in their classrooms.
The Kurdish Language and Education Institution has reported that 100 of Afrîn Canton’s teachers have the ability to teach lessons in Arabic. In other parts of Rojava, classes are also taught in Turkish.[Read more at DCkurd.org]