Syria: Global education union community solidarity helps teachers and other education staff

published 26 March 2023 updated 28 March 2023

Since Türkiye and Syria were struck on February 6th by a devastating earthquake that left tens of thousands dead and injured, including hundreds of teachers, support staff, academics and other education workers, the Union of Teachers in Northeast Syria (UTNES) and the international education union community via Education international (EI) have been providing as much support as possible to teachers, unionists and populations living in the affected Syrian areas, striving to ensure all children can regain access to education as soon as possible.

The Union of Teachers in Northeast Syria (UTNES), EI’s member organisation in the country, informed EI that they used the financial support from the EI Solidarity Fund to help the most affected teachers in Aleppo as a first step, buying food and tents for 200 teachers. They conducted emergency response operations and visits to teachers and their families.

Further financial support needed

UTNES also indicated that they need additional financial support to repair their headquarters and help affected teachers in Al-Shahba – at least 147 teachers in this area are living in tents/and or camps and have lost the little infrastructure they had with the earthquake.

They are still in need of basic resources, such as printers, laptops, office furniture, air conditioners, drinking water/filters for water.

“What we saw our member organisation do in Syria is ultimately to provide life-saving assistance in the spirit of human altruism and solidarity,” EI General secretary David Edwards said.

He added: “The situation in Syria is a worsening humanitarian crisis on the back of a natural disaster. Some people have to survive on a bag of bread and tinned food for a month. Displacement continues to rise as people take refuge in collective shelters. Many of them are teachers.”

While education unions and organisations from all over the world already mobilised after the news of the tragic natural disaster broke, EI reiterates its call to financial solidarity with our member organisations in Syria and Türkiye, he said.

The global education community is monitoring the situation of the education system in Syria, as Education Cannot Wait and the Global Partnership for Education are now ready to allocate emergency funds to Syria.

EI’s Resolution and Urgent Action Appeal

In its Resolution on the Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the EI Executive Board (ExBo), meeting on 14-16 March 2023, expressed “its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria and stands in solidarity with education workers and unionists who continue to suffer from its consequences”.

It further called for international solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria to help in the recovery efforts and asked EI member organisations to express their solidarity with sister organisations in Türkiye and Syria and continue to help them respond to the devastation as they rebuild.

The EI Executive Board urged the Government of Syria to facilitate the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid to the affected areas without delay.

Noting that, “in the case of Syria, the earthquake had a devastating impact in an area ravaged by war,” a situation that “complicated and delayed the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid,” the EI leaders also reiterated their call for peace in the area, “as a humanitarian crisis cannot be fully addressed without conflict resolution”.

EI issued an Urgent Action Appeal already on 9 February inviting member organisations to support their sister organisations in Syria and Turkey by contributing to the EI Solidarity Fund.