KURDWATCH, October 1, 2015—At the beginning of the 2015/2016 school year, the education authority in al‑Hasakah decreed that grades one through three at elementary schools in the province would remain closed. Instruction will only be offered in the higher grades. An elementary school teacher from al‑Qamishli told KurdWatch: »The reason for closing the first three grades is that the PYD wanted instruction there to take place in Kurdish.« For three years, the Baʿth regime has allowed the schools to offer two hours of Kurdish instruction per week. Now the PYD wants to teach all subjects in the first through third grades in Kurdish. The PYD’s plan to introduce a new subject called »Mothers’ Schools« in grades one through three has led to further conflict with the education authority in al‑Hasakah. The accompanying textbook is based on the ideology of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It includes numerous photos of Abdullah Öcalan and glorifies the imprisoned PKK chairman as a leader of the Kurds.
To date the Baʿth government continues to finance teachers’ salaries in the cantons of Jazirah, ʿAfrin, and Kobanî, which were established by the PYD. Teachers who violate the instructions of the Syrian education authority are subject to suspension. However, according to information obtained by KurdWatch, the PYD has forced some teachers to teach in violation of the authority’s decree.
The disagreements between the PYD and the regime have lead to considerable uncertainty for parents. On September 28, the first day of school after vacation, many elementary schools were reportedly almost empty. One reason why parents are not sending their children to school is that they reject the PYD’s political indoctrination. Another problem is that there are no teachers in Syria who are trained to teach in the Kurdish language.
Schools in the predominantly Arab districts and regions of al‑Hasakah province are not affected by the decree.