'The generation that will inherit Syria’: education as citizen aid and political opportunity

Article in business/trade/industry journal
Screenshot 2023-03-03 at 09.43.44.png

Grassroots initiatives to provide education were an integral part of efforts to stem the humanitarian disaster unleashed by the armed conflict in Syria. This article studies activists who organised informal schooling for children amid the devastating war. Building on life story interviews, we highlight the versatility of initiatives in the field of education for citizens who simultaneously engage in humanitarian action and mobilise for political change. There is a natural concern to detach humanitarian work from politics in order to gain and maintain a space for action. This has distanced the study of humanitarian aid from social movements research, which focuses on long-term struggles over power and political structures. We maintain, however, that the social movement literature generally, and studies on structural and cognitive political opportunity specifically, can help refine our understanding of the illusive nature of citizen aid. Our findings indicate that Syrians involved in humanitarian educational activities constructed their own structure of opportunities by monitoring shifting political and humanitarian conditions. Opening schools was a technical and pragmatic solution to the educational disaster caused by war. At the same time, it was motivated by a long lasting desire to free Syria from its political plight and to offer an alternative.