An amateur video showing the physical abuse suffered by pupils at the hands of their teachers is causing such a stir on the Syrian web that a Facebook group was created to find and identify the teachers, and the Minister of Education was forced to order an investigation.
These images show schoolteachers hitting their pupils on their hands and then on their feet with a ruler. One of them even asks the other pupils to help her hold her victims still.
On Friday the Minister of Education stated that the two women who appeared in this video had been identified and suspended. The abuse took place in the village of Essafira, in the department of Alep.
Warning: these images may be considered disturbing
"The two schoolteachers let themselves be filmed because for them, this is normal behaviour"
Bassam Alkadi is the director of the Syrian Women's Observatory, an organisation which campaigns against violence directed at women and children in Syria.
This video reveals the violence that our children are subjected to on a daily basis here in Syria. Teachers and school principals do not believe in teaching without violence. Of course, what we see in this video is exceptional as it’s particularly violent. But everyday children are victim to insults, slaps on the head, blows on their hands using rulers, or they are obliged to remain standing for hours on end…These forms of violence exist in both private and state schools. It is only in several posh schools that we don’t find any violence, as these are the children of important people who pay for a certain level of comfort.
This violence doesn’t shock anybody. In the video, we can see that the two teachers let themselves be filmed because for them, this is normal behaviour. They don’t do it on the sly.
Nor do the parents of the pupils complain very often. They are afraid that their children will be punished if they complain. They know that the teachers always stick together whenever there is a problem.
It is for this reason that, in my opinion, it is not enough to find these women and punish them - searching for them and identifying them is a perfectly normal response. But it is the entire school system that should be scrutinised. If the state doesn’t address the roots of the problem, it will never go away. Most importantly, the teaching body needs training to understand the long-term consequences of corporal punishment on children.
The Minister of Education should speak to the children subjected to such violence in school, maybe even through school textbooks. They have to be told their rights. They must be told that the teacher is there to educate them, but emphasise that he or she is neither a saviour nor an executioner.