Education officials in Idlib are trying to find jobs for the many teachers fired from government-run schools due to their support for the opposition.
Recruitment campaigns held in liberated areas are aimed at boosting the sector and bringing many qualified teachers back into employment.
“The education department is looking to employ 1,200 male and female teachers in schools in liberated areas,” Kasir Ali al-Sheikh, head of Kfar Nabel’s education institute, told Damascus Bureau.
In April 2016, Idlib’s education department held a three-day selection process in eight different academic institutes in opposition-held areas.
Coordinated by a group of specialists and teachers, more than 5,000 male and female teachers applied.
“We advertised on a number of radio stations, magazines, social media sites, and academics websites, and a large number of teachers responded,” al-Shiekh explained.
“We shortlisted those whose qualifications and supporting documents were verified, and invited them to attend an interview. Interviewing panels had received strict instructions to conduct fair interviews with no discrimination,” the 50 year-old said.
Al-Sheikh urged all education organisations active in the region to coordinate their efforts with Idlib’s education department, which he said had no affiliation with any military factions.
He also urged private schools to collaborate with the department when recruiting teachers.
This is not the first time that recruitment on such a large scale has been conducted. Idlib’s education department previously filled 2,600 vacant teaching positions using the same process.
One of the people in charge of the processes in Kfar Nabel, Khan Sheikhoun and Maarat al-Numan was 44 year-old Khaled al-Zeidoun, head of statistics and planning at Kfar Nabel’s education department.
“The purpose of these recruitment campaigns is to give teachers who support the opposition, and who consequently lost their government jobs, the opportunity to earn a living,” he said.
“Once the results are announced, we will be happy to deal with any appeals submitted by unsuccessful applicants.”
The campaign to recruit teachers has not always gone smoothly.
According to Noureddine al-Ismael, a member of the interviewing panel in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib’s education department rejected applications submitted by teachers still working at government-run schools.
“This was a mistake that has created resentment within the teaching community. The aim of the process i
s to improve the education infrastructure in liberated areas, therefore all applicants should have been accepted and allowed to compete,” he said.
Indeed, not everyone has been happy with the recruitment process.
“It’s a sham,” 36 year-old Dirar al-Khatib told Damascus Bureau.
“The successful applicants have already been determined. This whole process is just like those the government used to hold where favouritism ruled. Some of the applicants had even forged their qualifications.”
Yet another applicant who criticised the interview process in Kfar Nabel was a 24 year-old female Physical Education (PE) teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.
“When I sat in front of the panel I realised that none of them had any experience in teaching PE. I hold a degree in the subject and they didn’t ask me a single question about it, they only asked general questions about sports,” she said.
“I don’t believe I will be getting a job. I think the whole process is just for show.”
However, other applicants said that they were satisfied with the process.
Mudar al-Ali, a mathematics graduate, had attended an interview for a teaching position in Kfar Nabel.
“The interview went well,” the 23 year-old told Damascus Bureau,
“Most of the questions I was asked were relevant to my field, and there were a few general knowledge questions too,” he continued.
“The interviewing panel was from outside Kfar Nabel which means they were impartial and the selection process will be fair.”
Mostafa al-Jalal is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Kfar Nabel, Syria.
Read the Arabic version of this article here