Kibriya’ Al-Sa’ur

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
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Interview Location: Turkey
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"Research was conducted and then left to rot in drawers or in the library of educational documentation. No benefit came from its recommendations and nothing contained therein was implemented."

Kibriya’ Al-Sa’ur grew up in the city of Yabroud in rural Damascus, a city known for the beauty of its nature, its large proportion of immigrants, and for its special dialect.

Kibriya’ studied sociology in Damascus University at a time when it was a platform for political debate and for diversity between cultural elements. “The university was home to important and influential minds before the Baath Party came and imposed itself. The Baath emptied it of thought and scientific research by excluding intellectuals, except for a few. Nevertheless, there were political movements at the university, mainly leftist movements that were faced with violence from the Baath under the pretext of facing the Muslim Brotherhood and responding to terrorism in the eighties. This was true until the whole of Syria, as Riad al-Turk had said, became a city of graves.”

Kibriya’ worked after graduation in the Curriculum and Research Department and in the Ministry of Education under Ghassan al-Halabi. He was known to be a ‘security guy much like all ministers who were appointed by the intelligence services.

Research was conducted and then left to rot in drawers or in the library of educational documentation. No benefit came from its recommendations and nothing contained therein was implemented. This was despite the importance of the research, something which should be the basis of every educational process aimed at guiding decision makers.”

"The problem resided in the educational system that was associated with the authoritarian political system. The latter impregnated it with its very character. Appointments were not based on competence but on party affiliation, while the educational system in general was based on indoctrination. The Baath Pioneers received the child on the day s/he enters school to begin programming. On that day, s/he would find the entire class echoing the very same words and sentences used by the party in an effort to evacuate thinking, establish ignorance and consolidate tyranny.

A curriculum was designed to transform education from indoctrination to a process of critical thinking and scientific research skills under Dr. Ali Saad, the Ministry of Education. However, most of the curriculum was devoid of content because of the school environment. The main reason was low spending on students. The Ministry of Education did not possess the necessary skills, tools or knowledge for the task. Teachers were frustrated as a result of their low incomes, something which led to a general decline in education. Discrimination in spending on public schools created a big gap between the countryside and the city, between poor and rich neighborhoods in the same province.”

Kibriya' believes that the education system started to decline gradually in the eighties when studying in public schools and universities was possible for all. The possibility of working in both the private and public sectors was high at that time, while during the nineties and beyond, when the capitalist economy had returned, entry into the labor market was possible only for children of the rich who had studied in private schools. These students acquired additional skills such as IT and foreign languages and so education and employment became the privilege of the rich.

In her research, Kibriya' relied on questionnaires and, therefore, had access to students, teachers and parents. However, her most important experience was working with civil society organizations and women's associations. These became active after 2000 as a result of United Nations pressure on the Syrian State to involve civilians in the preparation of development plans and the issuance of periodic reports and projects. The government granted licenses to such associations as a front and a cover for its own actions as well. Most of those who were active in such associations had been previously banned from discussing public affairs and hoped for change.