Bakir Mohammad Ali

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Turkey
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“The Directorate of Education in Aleppo suffered many calamities because they did not put the right people in the right places.”

Bakir Mohammad Ali was born in 1974 to a Turkmen family living in the village of Shamarin in the northern A'zaz countryside near the Turkish border. Bakir says, “The inhabitants of our village were a mixture of Turkmens and Arabs. They always had good and friendly relations, and came together for weddings, funerals and social events.

Bakir's father and mother were not good Arabic speakers and were only able to read the Qur'an. His father’s first concern was to follow up on his children's education so that they could work in the public sector in order for them not to taste the bitterness of working for others, as it had been the case for him. Bakir's financial situation did not allow him to study at the university, therefore, he enrolled in the teacher training institute after taking the advice of some of his colleagues that the years of study at the institute were less and a job was guaranteed immediately after graduation.

Bakir graduated in 1994 with distinction and as such should have been appointed as a teacher in the city Aleppo or in one of its nearby villages but he was surprised to be appointed to a primary school in the Safira area of rural Aleppo. He felt he had been a victim of an injustice, and could not adapt to his new job. He was later transferred to a remote village in rural Aleppo after the director sent a letter to the Directorate of Education recommending this. This is how it came about that Bakir went to the Directorate of Education in order to file a complaint. He finally managed to transfer to a preparatory school in the city of Manbij in rural Aleppo with the help of one of the inspectors at the Directorate.

In 1998, Bakir returned to work after finishing with his compulsory military service and was again surprised to be appointed in a remote village in rural Manbij. He says, “The Directorate of Education in Aleppo suffered many calamities because they did not put the right people in the right places. I was the only teacher who taught all subjects in a school that had only 16 students. The school director was a cruel man, one of those who was appointed through favors with no regard whatsoever to competence. This is one reason for the decline in education.”

Bakir left the job after about three months and the following academic year was appointed to a large school in the city of Aleppo, where he tried to prove himself among 60 fellow teachers. After more than a year there, Bakir saw a teacher chase a student in the schoolyard, grab him and beat him. The man, a former school principal, was in his late fifties. This made Bakir think that maybe in twenty years he would be in that same situation, a mere elementary school teacher, and perhaps, like that man, he wouldn't be able to tolerate their childish actions. He decided to improve his prospects and re-took his baccalaureate, then studied Arabic language at the University of Aleppo.

He says, “I studied and worked as a full-time teacher. I also taught in private schools for middle and high school students. Despite all of this, I was one of the best in my class at the faculty.”

Bakir graduated in 2004 and received a financial reward of 50000 Syrian pounds for academic distinction. He continued his graduate studies and received a diploma in linguistics. He achieved financial stability as a result of his work in both public and private education. He was able to buy a house in the Halk neighborhood in the city of Aleppo. He later applied for a status amendment to the Ministry of Education and Learning but the request was delayed for about a year and a half. Eventually, their answer was for him to apply for a vacancy. "I filed a complaint to the Minister of Education and explained to him that I had been working for 11 years in elementary schools and that it was unreasonable to spend more years waiting to be re-employed, especially since I had been top of my class both in university and during my diploma studies. This is how my problem was solved and I started to teach Arabic language to high school students.”

Bakir continued his studies and received a doctorate in 2011. He then got the opportunity to teach at the University of Idlib, part of the University of Aleppo. Although the situation was not stable in the province at the time, especially after the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution, Bakir did not hesitate to take the opportunity to teach. He was finally forced to leave his job after the security situation became tense with a sharp increase in the number of checkpoints between Syrian cities and towns.