Syrian Schools – A must watch for UK residents

The brilliant but often overlooked digital channel BBC4 is midway through a fantastic series charting the lives of everyday children growing up in the Syrian Schools System. I recently caught the second episode which followed the lives of four Palestinian Syrian girls living in Yarkmouk ‘refugee camp’ in southern Damascus. We see two of them struggle to convince more conservative elders that rap music is a new and effective medium to tell the story of the stateless Palestinians still living in exile after 3 generations. A similarly touching tale shows a girl hoping to compete in the national schools discus championship, only to be held back by her traditional father. Eventually, aided by her supportive grandmother, she is able to take part in the competition at Tishreen stadium, converting her father to her cause along the way.

The program, which still has three episodes to go and can be watched on iplayer by UK viewers here, is a great introduction to Syria for those who have never visited. Having taught in a Syrian school myself, it really does seem to be a fair reflection of the life there and hasn’t been particularly ‘polished’ for TV. Hopefully, if British viewers get to see this kind of everyday life, which shows Syrian teenagers to (obviously) have much the same interests and concerns as their western equivalents, barriers can be broken down. A good step in the long process of debunking inaccuracies and misperceptions of Syria and the Middle East in general.

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