In Syria, 10-year-old Maram is focused on staying in school and becoming a teacher - CARE

In Syria, 10-year-old Maram is focused on staying in school and becoming a teacher

A girl smiles while standing outside in front of a house.

All photos ©Shafak/CARE

All photos ©Shafak/CARE

As the oldest girl in a household with 22 children, Maram is expected to balance the responsibilities of school and of being a caretaker for her young siblings and cousins.

Ten-year-old Maram* is one of 22 children living at her grandparents’ house in northwest Syria, where violent conflict has been a constant for nearly a decade. After Maram’s father died, her mother re-married and the family relocated to live with her grandparents and cousins.

As the oldest girl in the household, Maram is expected to take care of the housework and look after the younger children. These expectations combined with the family’s financial struggles and displacement, forced Maram to drop out of school, despite her desire to learn. The ongoing burden of being a caretaker and trauma of her experiences created a lot of fear and anxiety for Maram.

“I want to tell my friends and all other children that school is important and that they should continue their education, whatever the circumstances.”

In northwest Syria, CARE partners with the humanitarian organization Shafak, whose protection teams visited Maram’s grandparents to discuss the needs of girls like her, and the importance of supporting their rights, including the right to play and the right to education. As a result, Maram returned to school to continue her education. Being back at school helped alleviate some of Maram’s fear and anxiety but she’s still trying to balance responsibilities of school and home. She helps her siblings and cousins with their schoolwork and continues to take care of them with her grandmother.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maram has been unable to physically attend school year, but is trying to follow her lessons remotely via mobile phone and social media apps. Here, she shares her personal story and dreams of becoming a teacher.

A girl writes in a notebook while seated at a table.

“My name is Maram. I am 10 years old and I live in northwest Syria.

I lost my father because of the war. Now I live at my grandfather’s house, after my mother got re-married and moved to another house. I live with my young siblings and cousins at my grandfather’s. There are 22 children in the house, and I am the eldest. My cousins also lost their fathers because of the war. I had to leave school for two years to help my grandmother take care of the younger children and because of the difficult financial situation.

Children play in front of a house.

One day, a team from a humanitarian organization visited us. They sat with my grandfather and grandmother and talked to them about the importance of school and the need for children to continue education. I did not know that this visit would change my life. I had always dreamed of completing my education and becoming a teacher when I grow up. The team were able to convince my grandfather to send me to school again.

I am now in the fourth grade and I love my school a lot. I like playing with my friends at school, but I face some difficulty in reconciling school and family duties. When I return home from school, I change my clothes, have lunch and help my grandmother with the housework. After I finish, I start studying and I do my homework. Every day I study for a maximum of one or two hours. I do not have much time because I am the oldest girl in the house. I have to help my grandmother and take care of my brothers and cousins. I help them in their lessons and homework, and I also teach the younger ones the alphabet and writing.

I dream of becoming an Arabic language teacher because I love this subject and I love my Arabic teacher. I also like mathematics because I feel like it is easy and does not need memorization.

The coronavirus affected my school this year. Currently, I do not go to school and I feel sad because I no longer meet my friends, whom I used to play with every day in the yard. Now I follow my lessons through the mobile phone and social media apps with the teachers. We have a WhatsApp group, where our teachers send us lessons and follow up with us.

A gouger of children play with toys/

I want to tell my friends and all other children that school is important and that they should continue their education, whatever the circumstances.”

*Name has been changed

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