Determined To Seek An Education, Teenagers In Raqqa, Syria, Create Their Own School
December 28, 20189:34 AM ET
A church near the school was destroyed during the fight to oust ISIS from Raqqa, Syria. Ruth Sherlock/NPR hide caption
In a classroom that's so cold you can see your own breath, five teenage girls, their hair covered by brightly patterned scarves, and two boys read English phrases from textbooks. Repeating after their teacher, they say, "It has plants from all over the world."
The lesson, about an indoor rainforest in the United Kingdom, is a world away from the devastation surrounding them. They are students in Raqqa, Syria, a city that ISIS once claimed as its capital.
Beside their school building lie the remains of an Armenian church, and beyond that, a wasteland of apartment blocks crumpled by airstrikes. The city's public park, once lush and green, has become a mass grave.
Learning is exactly what these students want — so much so that the school is of their own making.
"We started looking for teachers at the beginning of July this year," says 18-year-old Diana, who, like most Raqqa residents, says it is unsafe to be quoted by full name. President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troop